The so-called competition refine medical technologies based on 3D printing has intensified the production of such things from lightweight casts to body parts. Among the participants there are establishments of various sizes and levels, including amateur producers, as biotech hackers BioCurious have presented clear instructions concerning assembling a DIY bioprinter . In search for new ways of healing lesions and burns with 3D printed skin, the US army has proved to be the main candidate to win the contest; however the Canadian team, who has just entered the championship, has won the main award.
A young team has worked out a new hardware and a special method for successful bioprinting.
Arianna McAllister and Lian Leng – engineering students from Toronto – won the first award during the Canadian branch of the 2014 James Dyson Awards program having represented their PrintAlive Bioprinter. They received a $3,500 prize and a chance to take part in the international competition, in which teams from 18 countries will struggle for $50,000 more.
The James Dyson Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to supporting young people, who do research in scientific and engineering fields, makes use of annual award programme to encourage further development of students’ projects and designs to solve the problem. The problem was raised by Toronto team and is twofold. On the one hand severe burns can lead to severe damage of skin (both outer and inner layers – also known as the epidermis and the dermis) that are made up of a number of cells and structures of cells, which need special treatment.
In that case Leng tells CBC news explained that regeneration is a long and difficult process for the whole body. So if it can close the wounds quickly, that will mean that the scientific world is close to reaching its highest goal. On the other hand, the team were willing to create flexible skin-like materials using 3D printing that would continue to exist after grafting procedures. They found out that conventional 3D printers worked better with hard materials and didn’t manage to develop skin grafts with a great number of layers of cells that required various conditions.
The students worked together with Axel Guenther, an associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering from Toronto University, Boyang Zhang, recent PhD, and Dr. Marc Jeschke, burn surgeon, to create a new type of printer cartridge. This particular cartridge has a number of pretty small channels with liquid environment and full of skin cells that are necessary for them. Before printing the dermal and epidermal cells together with the necessary liquid are kept in two separate channels.
While printing each layer of the new skin is dispensed as a liquid into another liquid that makes it more solid and turns into a gel. The two gel layers are printed together (one onto another) and the biodegradable dressing full of the cells thus appears which can treat deep wounds and injuries. So far 3D printed skin grafts have saved immune-compromised mice to heal wounds. In the nearest future the team plans to experiment with large grafts in pigs and then to start clinical trials on humans in about three years. This summer the US Army announced that its scientists are going to start clinical trials soon to examine their own skin printing techniques.