Imagine rolling a tape dispenser over a wound, leaving behind a strip of cells that will generate new skin.
Researchers at the University of Toronto and Sunnybrook Hospital are getting close. They have designed a handheld machine that can create tissue and deposit in about two minutes, with material similar to human skin.
“The hope is that providing the right cells in the right place will accelerate wound healing,” Axel Guenther, Ph.D., a mechanical and industrial engineering professor at the University of Toronto, told Canada’s Global News.
The technology might be best suited to large wounds, for which doctors can’t or would prefer not to harvest “good” skin for a graft.
The researchers have so far tested their device on mice and pigs. The long-term goal is to eventually harvest a patient’s skin cells, grow more in a lab and then fuse them with the printable gel.
It could cut healing time from months to weeks and possibly reduce scarring, the researchers said.
“What we’re hoping is that this technology will make these tissue-engineered technologies much more accessible to patients,” Guenther said.
“If this works, it will revolutionize the way we care for burns, which we haven’t done for 30, 40 years. It will be a complete game-changer,” added Marc Jeschke, M.D., director of Sunnybrook’s Ross Tilley Burn Centre, in Toronto.