Revolutionary

3D printing: Human skin is now being printed in labs

By Kitty Knowles 25 January 2017
Summary

Bioprinting the body - can you wrap your brain around it?

3D-printing has never been more on-trend.

Adidas just launched its first 3D-printed trainers, top designers are 3D-printing jewellery and accessories, and gourmet chefs are leading the way for 3D-printed food.

But the latest way it’s shaping our lives is both cool – and a little creepy: medical researchers in Spain are 3D-printing human skin.

Bioprinting body parts

Today a fully-functioning replica of the body’s largest organ (yes, that’s the skin) can be created in a lab, say scientists from Charles III University of Madrid.

It’s an advancement that could transform millions of lives – in particular the 11m people who become burn victims each year.

Currently when a patient needs a skin graft, they have to grow skin on other parts of their bodies – a process that can take weeks.

But 3D-printed skin can create skin far more efficiently using the patient’s cells.

Ethically sound

The revolutionary new process will also please animal rights activists, as synthetic skin can be used to test chemicals in place of animals.

It’s hoped that it will be a popular within the cosmetics industry, and BioDan Group, a Spanish bioengineering firm, has already announced its plans to commercialise the technology.

This may not be the first time we’ve seen 3D-printed body parts: Andiamo uses the technology to create beautiful custom body braces, Open Bionics 3D-prints incredible robot limbs, and 3D-printed genitalia is inspiring on many fronts.

But we have to say that 3D-printed skin has blown our minds. Can you wrap your brain around it?

Read more: 5 reasons 3D-printing genitalia is great

Read more: These early prosthetics show how far we’ve come

Read more: Why 3D-printed food is no fad