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 user 2005-02-13 at 10:45:00 am Views: 123
  • #10221

    Skin made to order … on a printer?
    ‘Inkjet’ process may be available by 2010

    The University of
    Manchester’s Brian Derby holds magnified tissue scaffolds that new skin would
    grow on. The actual scaffolds have cell sizes of 3 millimeters and would be
    clear instead of green. Derby and his team are experimenting with different
    scaffold shapes

    By manufacturing human skin cells using a printer similar
    to an inkjet, scientists have taken a significant first step toward generating
    new skin. The process, which could revolutionize the treatment of major skin
    wounds, could be ready for clinical trials in five years.

    While much research needs to be done, the technique is
    promising, according to an expert not involved in the breakthrough.

    Scientists expect to eventually build commercial skin
    printers for hospital use. Doctors would take cells from a patient’s body,
    multiply them and suspend them in a nutrient-rich liquid similar to ink. A
    technician would enter measurements of a patient’s wound into a computer and
    feed the suspended cells into the printer.

    The cells would then be seeded on a plastic tissue
    scaffold, which provides shape and stability to the new piece of skin as it
    develops. The scaffold would also anchor the perfectly shaped piece of skin when
    it’s applied on the wound, keeping the graft in place until it takes hold.

    The scaffold would dissolve naturally over time, just as
    some stitches do.

    “The cells are the patient’s own cells, and the object is
    to reincorporate them into the body,” project leader Brian Derby told

    Perhaps bones and
    organs, too
    Derby heads the Ink-Jet Printing of Human Cells
    Project at the University of Manchester in Britain. He said that using a
    person’s own cells is ideal because it will reduce scarring, and patients will
    not need to take immunosuppressant drugs, as they do with some current skin
    transplant procedures.

    Derby’s team is using starter cells taken from patients
    having hip implants at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, but the ideal situation
    would be to take stem cells from a patient’s bone marrow and control how they
    morph, a natural process called differentiation. Stem cells can become any type
    of body tissue when properly directed.

    The technology would allow printing more than one type of
    cell at a time and, overcoming a current limitation, allow control over the
    shape of whatever is grown. The shape of the scaffold determines the shape of
    the end product.

    “It would be possible to build up a structure using
    different cell types mimicking the structure of actual skin,” Derby said. “You
    can print as many cells as you have print heads. Our machine could print up to
    eight different ‘inks,’ where the inks are cell suspensions, scaffold materials
    or biochemicals.”

    Such a printer could possibly generate bone for bone
    grafts, or even whole organs, although these goals are farther down the research

    “In theory, you could print the scaffolding to create an
    organ in a day, but we are not quite there yet,” Derby said.

    Ioannis Yannas, a professor at Massachusetts
    Institute of Technology, is the co-developer of the Dermis Regeneration
    Template, the first “artificial skin” scaffold developed. It was given federal
    approval in 1991 for use in plastic surgery and in 1996 to treat burns. DRT has
    been used with more than 13,000 burn victims.

    Derby’s research is a “significant achievement,” Yannas
    said in an e-mail interview. “Dr. Derby’s process promises to greatly simplify
    cell-seeding of scaffolds that are used to induce organ regeneration.”

    It’s not yet clear, however, whether the technology will
    go beyond production of skin.

    “It remains to be seen whether the process can be used to
    seed scaffolds that have been shown capable of inducing regeneration, leading to
    restoration of organ shape and physiological function,” Yannas said.