Sci-Fi writer Philip K. Dick called them Artif-orgs- artificial organs. The skin is our largest organ; Robert Everett-Green of the Globe and Mail describes a new way of making skin in a 3D printer, developed by engineering grad student Lian Leng and her team at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering of the University of Toronto. It is an interesting cross-disciplinary project of mechanical engineering, "gadget makers" and doctors at Sunnybrook Hospital. He writes:
Leng’s modest prototype looks like a small open box of clear hard rubber, the layered floor of which contains a delta of microfabricated pathways. These lead from seven reservoir stations to a single output stream. Just like the colour cartridges in my printer, Leng’s reservoirs of live cells are computer controlled to dispense precise amounts exactly where needed.
Burn surgeon Marc Jeschke is impressed.
If we are successful, we could significantly decrease length of [hospital] stay,” Jeschke says, “and length of stay is associated with the risk of infections, sepsis, organ failure and so forth. There would be a profound decrease in costs as well. There are also a lot of patients that need help in Third World countries, that don’t have money for the care we have now.” The fabricated skin will look much better than a graft, he says, increasing its value to patient quality of life.
More in the Globe and Mail
Marcia Kaye covered this earlier in the U of T Magazine:
The one-step device is believed to be the first in the world to create tissue rapidly on a large scale – important in repairing skin destroyed by burns or other major wounds. It’s hoped that, in future, instead of traditional skin grafts that remove patients’ own healthy skin for transplant, patients will receive machine-made skin grafts that are safer, faster and cheaper.
Coming soon: Kinko's for Kidneys.