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NEWS
Researchers Develop Method To 3D Print Living Skin
February 27, 2020

According to information provided by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Rensselaer), researchers have now developed a way to 3D print living skin, complete with blood vessels. The advancement, published online in Tissue Engineering Part A, is a significant step toward creating grafts that are more like the skin the human body produces naturally.

“Right now, whatever is available as a clinical product is more like a fancy Band-Aid,” remarked Pankaj Karande, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering and member of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS), who led this research at Rensselaer. “It provides some accelerated wound healing, but eventually it just falls off; it never really integrates with the host cells.”

Until now, a significant barrier to that integration has been the absence of a functioning vascular system in the skin grafts.

Prof. Karande has been working on this challenge for several years, previously publishing one of the first papers showing that researchers could take two types of living human cells, make them into “bio-inks,” and print them into a skin-like structure. Since then, he and his team have been working with researchers from Yale School of Medicine to incorporate vasculature.

In this paper, “Three Dimensional Bioprinting of a Vascularized and Perfusable Skin Graft Using Human Keratinocytes, Fibroblasts, Pericytes, and Endothelial Cells,” the researchers show that if they add key elements — including human endothelial cells, which line the inside of blood vessels, and human pericyte cells, which wrap around the endothelial cells — with animal collagen and other structural cells typically found in a skin graft, the cells start communicating and forming a biologically relevant vascular structure within the span of a few weeks.

“As engineers working to recreate biology, we’ve always appreciated and been aware of the fact that biology is far more complex than the simple systems we make in the lab,” Prof. Karande noted. “We were pleasantly surprised to find that, once we start approaching that complexity, biology takes over and starts getting closer and closer to what exists in nature.”

Prof. Karande explains this research here.


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