Since the days when skin was scraped off one area of a patient's body and slapped back on another to cover a painful burn or injury, the science of skin grafting has advanced significantly. Nowadays, grafts are frequently bioprinted, much like live inkjets, using the patient's cultured cells to initiate the entire growth process, even down to the vascularization. These printed grafts' main drawback is that they can only be created as flat sheets with open edges. The totally contained geometry of human skin is ignored by this technology, claim a group of Columbia University academics. Instead, they have developed an innovative method of generating skin in almost any complex 3D shape they require, from ears and elbows to full hands.
In the January issue of Scientific Advances, the team's research was published under the title "Engineering edgeless human skin with increased biomechanical properties." "The skin as a fully contained 3D tissue that can be fashioned after a bodily component and seamlessly transferred as a biological clothing," they said they had designed, was how they did it.
According to a recent news release from Dr. Hasan Erbil Abaci, chief researcher and assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University, "three-dimensional skin structures that may be transplanted as 'biological clothing' would have several advantages." These would drastically cut down on the need for sutures, shorten surgical procedures, and enhance cosmetic results.
Furthermore, compared to patchwork options, these homogeneous grafts have demonstrated greater mechanical and functional performance. The grafts are known as "wearable edgeless skin structures" by the Columbia researchers (WESCs). But can you actually eat them?
These skin prosthesis can be created using methods that aren't all that dissimilar from those now in use to produce flat slabs of skin. To construct a digital replica of the structure, a 3D laser scan of the transplant location is conducted initially. This information is processed by a CAD program to produce a hollow wireframe of the appendage, which is subsequently printed. The cultured cells from the patient will grow on this as a scaffold.
The outer layer is made up of keratinocytes, which make up the epidermis, and growth medium to nourish the cells as they mature. It is first coated with skin fibroblasts and collagen. The entire procedure takes around three weeks, similar to creating flat sheets, for the cells to fully form up and be prepared for transplant.
Early experiments in the lab using mice models were positive. Abaci remarked, "It was like putting a pair of shorts on the mice. The entire procedure lasted around ten minutes. Be calm; mouse skin is not similar to human skin. Before we begin using it on humans, we must conduct further animal research because of how differently it heals. Undoubtedly still years away, such tests.
Victims of burns often carry with them not only visible but also psychological damage. To improve the well-being and self-esteem of these victims, members of the global society are working on sustainable solutions to give them a better life. In doing so, various SDGs are also achieved.
More information: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.ade2514