3-D printers have moved from plastic to metal, and now to human tissue.
Spanish scientists report they have designed a machine capable of printing a replacement for human skin using special bio-ink consisting of human skin cells and other biological components.
The printer is in the research stage, but its designers hope it will eventually be approved for treating burn patients, as well as for replacing animals in the testing of cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.
According to the scientific report, published in the online journal Biofabrication, the printed skin has all the essential parts of the natural skin, such as the dermis (the layer of tissue that contains capillaries, nerve endings and other structures), the epidermis (the layer of cells atop the dermis), the stratum corneum (the horny outer layer), and even the collagen, which gives skin its elasticity and mechanical strength.
The skin bioprinter is the product of a collaboration of scientists from Spain's Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, the Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research in Madrid, Madrid's General Gregorio Maranon Hospital and Spanish bioengineering firm BioDan Group.
Meanwhile, Chinese biotechnology firm Sichuan Revotek says it has successfully implanted 3-D-printed blood vessels into rhesus monkeys, in a bid to develop technology for mass-printing of human organs.