As innovation in technology and healthcare continue to merge, it’s becoming more and more common to witness procedures leaping out of sci fi novels and directly into our modern hospitals and clinics. 3D printing is a perfect example. When the first 3D printer debuted, it was used to print a plastic cup for holding eyewash. Now, researchers are able to print functioning blood vessels, thyroid glands, and a growing number of other organs that could soon be transplanted into humans. Now, scientists have cracked the code on using a 3D printer to replace the largest organ of all: our skin.
A Spanish company called BioDan recently released their most recent breakthrough-3D printed living skin-and the possible applications are amazing. The most obvious use is one that you’ll likely see soon in your hospitals or clinics. Take burn victims, for example. Rather than using a skin graft to transplant skin from one part of a patient’s body to another to cover the burned area, the 3D printer uses cells from the patient’s existing skin to print actual skin to cover the injured area. This, of course, will be on a customized, case-by-case basis, and the technology (once approved) may take a while to reach all hospitals, but this is possibly something you’ll encounter on the job at some point in your career.
The 3D printed skin can also serve a research function. One mass-produced version of the printed skin is allergenic, meaning it can be used for industrial and cosmetic testing. Not only does this make tests simpler for research labs, but it also means that fewer animals would be involved. Another potential application (currently being researched by the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine) hopes to use the tech to aid wounded soldiers in the field.
“We are printing living skin as a full living human organ,” BioDan Group CEO Alfredo Brisac told 3DPrint.com. “With both dermis and epidermis, capable to create its own human collagen. This is a rupturing technology opening a new door to create living organs in the future. Organs derived from livings cells without the need of any genetic manipulation.”
You can watch a video on the research and future applications here.
Jon Schull, founder of E-NABLE (a non-profit that provides 3D printed prosthetics to children), sees nothing but hope for the future.
“This is what technology is for,” Schull said, referring to the difference 3D prosthetics have made for the children enrolled in his program. “Many of us are attracted to it because it’s cool. But what turns out to be cool and incredibly meaningful is using it to enable a new kind of future.” Pretty impressive for a technology that we were told probably wouldn’t amount to much just a few years ago.
Every day, something new hits the medical field, making it more exciting than ever and making you more effective than ever at combating disease and injury. And we can’t wait to see what pops out of the sci fi novels tomorrow.
If you’d like more information on beginning a career in healthcare, find out what Unitek College can do for you by contacting us here.