Imagine being able to simply spray new skin onto wounds, scars, or burns as if they never happened? We may be one step closer to that future. Researchers at Wake Forest’s Institute of Regenerative Medicine, inspired by the inkjet printer, have created a device that sprays on a layer of skin cells to heal burns and wounds. Initial tests show that the spray-on skin heals more than twice as quickly as traditional skin grafts and result in less scarring and more hair regeneration in the new skin.
The device itself consists of a tank holding a mixture of harvested skin cells, stem cells, and nutrients, and a computer-controlled nozzle that places the cells exactly where they need to go. The spray works similar to a color printer, first spraying down a layer of fibroblast skin cells as a substrate, and then blasting on a layer of protective keratinocyte cells.
The two-part technology first scans the wound to measure the depth and scope and then lets the “bioprinter” know what kind of layers of cells need to be sprayed on the affected area. If the cells are cultured from a donor and layered with the bioprinter, doctors hope the chance of rejection will be greatly reduced.
Other doctors believe this new technology could be used in the future for regenerating even more than skin. Over in the UK at the University of Manchester researchers believe combing the bioprinters with stem cells could allow doctors to generate bone for bone grafts or even entire organs, eventually. While the technology is really just in its infancy, this gives us every reason to hope that significant improvements in medical technology are right around the corner.