Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine took a regular ink-jet printer and loaded it with cells in vials -- in place of an ink cartridge -- to print new skin cells directly over wounds.
A laser scans the wound to create a sort of map that the printer can follow to know where to place each cell type. Then the printer runs back and forth over a wound inserting new cells that will harden and mature into skin.
"Skin grafts, the traditional method used to treat burns, are impractical because burn victims often don't have enough unaffected skin to cover the burnt areas, according to Wake Forest's website. They also delay the time in which skin heals, which increases the risk of infection.
"But the printed skin cells expedite the healing process, according to the school. In clinical trials, mice with wounds similar to burn wounds healed in just three weeks, compared with five weeks for untreated animals."
Wake Forest Institute isn't the only facility that is researching how printers can be used in medicine. Researchers at Cornell University are using a 3D printer to build new cartilage. The 3D printer uses a donor's cells along with other materials including biofriendly gel to build the layers of a physical object.
Hod Lipson of Cornell University told COSMOS: "Just imagine -- if you could take cells from a donor, culture them, put them into an ink and recreate an implant that is alive and made of the original cells from the donor -- how useful that would be in terms of avoiding rejection."
Photo via Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine