Bioprinting Human Skin Cuts the Time Needed from Weeks to Minutes

Skin is one of the easier starting points for 3D bioprinting, the application of rapid prototyping technologies to the construction of living tissue. Since skin is a thin tissue, the challenging issue of producing the intricate blood vessel networks needed to supply inner cells with oxygen and nutrients can be skipped. Thin tissue sections can be supported in a suitable nutrient bath, and after transplant, patient blood vessels will grow into the new skin. Further, there is a fairly large and long-established research and development industry involved in various forms of skin regeneration. Numerous forms of prototype skin-like tissues have been created over the years, lacking many of the features of the real thing, but still useful in the treatment of, for example, burn victims. Further, skin structure is by now well understood, and considerable progress has been made in deciphering the signals and environment needed for suitable cells to self-assemble into the correct arrangements. All told, it should not be a complete surprise to see significant progress emerge in this part of the field.

Significant progress has been made over the past 25 years in the development of in vitro-engineered substitutes that mimic human skin, either to be used as grafts for the replacement of lost skin, or for the establishment of in vitro human skin models. In this sense, laboratory-grown skin substitutes containing dermal and epidermal components offer a promising approach to skin engineering. In particular, a human plasma-based bilayered skin generated by our group, has been applied successfully to treat burns as well as traumatic and surgical wounds in a large number of patients in Spain. There are some aspects requiring improvements in the production process of this skin; for example, the relatively long time (three weeks) needed to produce the surface required to cover an extensive burn or a large wound, and the necessity to automatize and standardize a process currently performed manually. 3D bioprinting has emerged as a flexible tool in regenerative medicine and it provides a platform to address these challenges.

In the present study, we have used this technique to print a human bilayered skin using bioinks containing human plasma as well as primary human fibroblasts and keratinocytes that were obtained from skin biopsies. We were able to generate 100 cm2, a standard P100 tissue culture plate, of printed skin in less than 35 minutes (including the 30 minutes required for fibrin gelation). We have analysed the structure and function of the printed skin using histological and immunohistochemical methods, both in 3D in vitro cultures and after long-term transplantation to immunodeficient mice. In both cases, the generated skin was very similar to human skin and, furthermore, it was indistinguishable from bilayered dermo-epidermal equivalents, handmade in our laboratories. These results demonstrate that 3D bioprinting is a suitable technology to generate bioengineered skin for therapeutical and industrial applications in an automatized manner.



This was on the TV news in Spain some days ago. The hospital that did the first transplant with this technique is near my town (around 1 hour by car).

Posted by: Antonio at January 25th, 2017 12:49 PM

If they could use this to replace our wrinkled skin with youthful skin, the cosmetic industry would have a heyday and HUGE amount of people (especially woman) would go this route if price is not extreme. It would also help the rejuv aging community to move much quicker.

Not sure if could be feasible, but I would think it could happen inside of a decade. Imagine 65 years olds with a face of a 25 year old. Yes, we would still be old, but at least we would look great until rejuv comes of age.

Posted by: Robert at January 25th, 2017 1:04 PM

Mmm... sorry, it seems that journalists mixed two news (or I didn't play much attention): this skin bioprinter news and the first autologous tissue-engineered skin transplant in Spain, that was done in July last year.

Posted by: Antonio at January 25th, 2017 1:29 PM

@Robert - how much of skin looking old is due to just damage in the skin, and how much of it is due to a lack of repair and renewal due to inhibitory effects from the systemic mileu?

You might painfully get your facial skin replaced (a real facelift) but then look like crap again in 5 years or so?

There was a post on FA recently about the use of bone morphology protein in the use of scarless healing, which also caused the fat cells under the skin to regrow. I think that could be an interesting approach (the best dermal filler ever) and I'd love to see some in human tests of it.

If someone like Liz Parish wanted to get media attention (troll the internet/world) there would probably be no better way to do it than get a younger looking face.

Also, it took me ages to find that old post by scrolling through the archives. God I wish there was a comments system on this site where you could click on your username and see your past comments.

Posted by: Jim at January 25th, 2017 9:03 PM

While searching for that scarless wound healing FA blog post, I also found one on the delivery of bone morphology protein in hydrogel, which is currently used in dermal fillers.

Seems like an opportunity for some business to put two and two together. It would take years and millions to get BMP approved for the use of wrinkle reduction, but maybe some company could manufacture it overseas?

Posted by: Jim at January 25th, 2017 9:16 PM

Ok, I see that it is not just as simple as injecting BMP as too much causes inflammation.

Posted by: Jim at January 25th, 2017 10:09 PM
Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.