In a latest breakthrough, scientists in Spain have developed a special 3D bioprinter that can ‘produce’ functional human skin. Apart from research purposes the skin could be used to test cosmetics and other chemical-based products, and for transplanting onto human patients.
It is the first living human organ created using bioprinting that will be introduced in the marketplace. According to the research, it replicates the natural structure of the skin, with an external layer, the epidermis with its stratum corneum, which acts as protection against the external environment, together with another thicker, deeper layer, the dermis. This last layer consists of fibroblasts that produce collagen, the protein that gives elasticity and mechanical strength to the skin.
“It can be transplanted to patients or used in business settings to test chemical products, cosmetics or pharmaceutical products in quantities and with timetables and prices that are compatible with these uses,” said José Luis Jorcano, one of the researchers on the project.
There are two ways to produce the skin. The first one is to to produce allogeneic skin, from a stock of cells, done on a large scale, for industrial processes. The second one is to create autologous skin, which is made case by case from the patient’s own cells, for therapeutic use, such as in the treatment of severe burns.
Currently the researchers are only using human tissues and cells to produce skin that is bioactive and can generate its own human collagen. This avoids the use of the animal collagen found in other methods. The research is still on as they are looking for ways to print other human tissues.
“This method of bioprinting allows skin to be generated in a standardized, automated way, and the process is less expensive than manual production,” said Alfredo Brisac, CEO of BioDan Group, the Spanish bioengineering firm specializing in regenerative medicine and is collaborating on this research and commercializing this technology.