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This Handheld Device 3D Prints New Skin Directly into Wounds

For really serious skin wounds that go deep — through the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis — the traditional treatment is a skin graft. But, that treatment requires the removal of healthy donor skin, when that’s even possible, and the results are often leave a lot to be desired. That’s why researchers from the University of Toronto have developed a device that 3D prints new skin tissue directly into the wound itself.

The gadget would allow trauma surgeons to quickly inject new skin into a wound without the need for complication-prone skin grafts. It creates tissue sheets by combining collagen and fibrin — the two most common proteins in your skin — into a “bio ink” that is then applied to the wound. Similar engineered skin tissue already exists, but it is made in advance and applied manually.

The researchers with their portable 3D skin printer. (📷: Liz Do / University of Toronto)

This handheld tissue 3D printer can start making new tissue from raw material in just two minutes. That makes it perfect for emergency room use, where it might be needed urgently. At less than a kilogram and roughly the size of a packing tape dispenser, it’s portable and easily stored. So far they’ve only done tests in the lab, but the team hopes to perform clinical trials in the future.

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