By Sima Greenberg
Three dimensional, or 3D, printing technology has transformed many industries, including the mechanics and product design models involved in dentistry and medicine.
The three main methods of bioprinting skin include laser-assisted bioprinting, inkjet-based bioprinting, and extrusion bioprinting. Both the laser and inkjet methods print the cells drop-by-drop and have high cell viability. Since the laser-assisted bioprinting method doesn’t use a nozzle, it is the most precise method of the three. The laser-assisted method, hHowever, is the most expensive and time-consuming method. Therefore, as of now, the inkjet-based bioprinting method is the most common.
A primary use for 3D-printing technology is in the world of dentistry. Dental implants and crowns use this 3D-printing technology to obtain the exact desired measurements and shapes of each tooth, eliminating the human error component. Dental implants and crowns are not connected to the central nervous system, rather they serve as protection of the tooth or of the area surrounding the missing tooth. It is far simpler to 3D-print an object from simple materials, rather than print biological materials to function as part of an organ system.
Not only has this new technology been used in dentistry but also has been paramount in the field of medicine, specifically in producing synthetic skin. In recent years, biomedical engineers have been working to create synthetic skin tissue. The uses of synthetic skin tissue are not limited to skin grafts. Synthetic skin tissues have the potential to help burn victims, repair UV-ray damage, and contribute to the development of drugs and cosmetics. If the methods of drug testing continue to evolve successfully, animal drug testing can be limited.
The bioprinting of skin is patient-specific; it is not a one-size-fits-all treatment. The skin must be a perfect match in order for the human body to “accept” it. It can be very complex as each person has a unique skin color and geometry of their cells. Computer technology, however, helps with the process of making sure the new skin is perfect with the cells arranged in the same patterns as the rest of the patient’s skin.
The cells need biocompatible components to connect to each other, so bioinks are used to connect the cells from individuals to a unit of mature skin tissue. Bioinks are composed of fibroblasts, keratinocytes, fibrin, collegians, and stem cells. Other components are also used to model the structure and functions of human skin cells.
Some challenges involved in the development of skin printing technology include pigmentation, hair growth and other dermal features. These methods have the potential to have a great impact on the quality of skin grafting, wound healing, and advanced pharmaceutical research, but they are still premature and have difficulties to overcome.