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A remarkable new experiment involving a printer that uses living cells as its ‘ink’ was recently presented at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress in Washington, DC.
Normally a badly burned victim would need extensive surgery requiring skin grafts from other parts of the body to replace the burnt or damaged skin.
Now, researchers from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine hope to use a system that lays down cells with the same fluid based inkjet technology used in many household printers.
The skin printer will have dual heads that release a combination of skin cells, collagen, and blood coagulants onto the wound. A laser then takes a reading of the wound’s size and shape so that a layer of healing skin cells can be precisely applied.
Just like the components of quick-setting adhesives. which must be kept separate until mixing causes a chemical reaction that hardens the adhesive, the products of the two print heads mix to immediately form fibrin, yet a third protein involved in the clotting of blood.
To top things off, a layer of skin cells is printed and used to cover the wound.
At the moment, trials are on-going with mice, eventually moving on to pigs due to their skin being much more like human skin.
The team will eventually seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to test the device on humans, said George Christ, a professor of regenerative medicine at the school.
Unfortunately, there is no word on when we can expect to see this amazing technology in use. Consider how much of a benefit this would be at a field hospital in the middle of a war zone or at a local burn center.
However, but they don’t say how long it takes them to multiply the cells needed for the repair. A small burn area, not as many cells needed as a large burn area.
Hopefully, in the future they will develop a medium or technique for faster replication of cells, but what about the risks of skin-cell mutation? I think we have a long way to go yet with this idea.
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