3D printing technology has captured the attention of scientists, doctors, and Temple live-in caregivers alike with its ability to create incredible things like working machines and even houses. This technology is proving to be equally revolutionary in the medical field where it’s currently being used to create low-cost prosthetics, heart valves, and bone scaffold. The next frontier in 3D printing? Replacing human skin with a process known as bioprinting.
Several companies have launched skin-printing initiatives over the last year. While some hope to revolutionize cosmetic testing by printing skin for testing and research, this technology may be used one day to use a patient’s own skin cells to make a nearly perfect skin graft and even replacement organs.
The process for bioprinting human skin uses cartridges with “bioink,” which is derived from a patient’s cells combined with collagen. First a layer of growth medium or hydrogel is printed as a space holder, and then the bioink is deposited in tiny spheres. As these layers of spheres are printed, they fuse together naturally. The printed tissue is allowed to mature in the growth medium for weeks, at which point it can be used to test drugs, research disease, and one day serve as a skin replacement therapy.
Recently, a team at the Wake Forest School of Medicine developed a printer capable of printing replacement skin directly onto the wounds of burn victims. In this case, the “bioink” is made from enzymes and collagen that, once printed, are layered with tissue and skin cells to create a skin graft.
The greatest challenge with bioprinting skin today is producing skin in sufficient quantities. The process is currently labor-intensive. L’Oreal’s human skin labs, for example, produce just 54 square feet of skin per year, which is equivalent to the size of a single cow’s hide. While science is still years away from being able to transform this technology into widespread use, it may one day be used to treat skin aging, burns, and more. Replacement skin may soon be printed in large enough quantities to help people recovering from surgery or even for cosmetic purposes to virtually replace aging skin.
While researchers work to perfect this revolutionary marvel, seniors can turn to other resources for help through the aging process. Home Care Assistance in Temple provides comprehensive services to help seniors recover from injury or manage illness in the comfort of home. Additionally, our friendly caregivers offer emotional support and companionship for seniors looking to enhance their golden years. Call us today at 254-856-0600 to learn more about our services and schedule a no-obligation consultation with an experienced Care Manager.