I wonder if Johannes Gutenberg himself ever imagined that his invention of the Printing Press would evolve into such a futuristic, extraordinary gadget: a machine capable of producing and fabricating the biggest organ of the body, the skin.

The creation of a printer capable of creating human skin is 100% viable and developed to the point that it can now be transplanted in patients. The application for cosmetic, chemical or pharmaceutical research processes means that finally, the boom of 3D print is coming to fruition.

Printing of Today

If you never heard about 3D Printing until this moment, take a look at this quick interactive overview explanation and get on the wave.

Now we are all clear, is it too soon to tell you that there’s already Bioprinting as well? I promise you will be happy to know a little bit more about that.

Bioprinting is a new emerging technology that aims at achieving to develop new tissues, and eventually organs. Bioprinting is in the research phase as any technology that takes time to completely develop.

How Does Bioprinting Work

Once a tissue design is established, the first step is to develop the bioprocess protocols required to generate the multi-cellular building blocks —also called bio-ink— from the cells that will be used to build the target tissue.

On 3D Bioprinting, the key, according to experts, are those bio-inks. In skin-creation technology, instead of cartridges with colored inks, syringes with different components are used.

The bio-ink building blocks are then dispensed from a Bioprinter, using a layer-by-layer approach that is scaled for the target output, ultimately printing human skin layer by layer. Bio-inert hydro gel components may be utilized as supports, as tissues are built up vertically to achieve three-dimensionality, or as fillers to create channels or void spaces within tissues to mimic features of native tissue.

The Bioprinting process can be tailored to produce tissues in a variety of formats, from micro-scale tissues contained in standard multi-well tissue culture plates, to larger structures suitable for placement onto bioreactors for biomechanical conditioning prior to use.

Pioneering and printing human skin

Scientists from the Carlos III University of Madrid, CIEMAT (Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research) and the Gregorio Marañón Hospital have just presented the first prototype of a 3D Bioprinter capable of creating fully functional human skin.

This new human skin is one of the first living human organs created using bioprinting to be introduced to the marketplace.

“This method of Bioimpression allows generating the skin in an automated and standardized way, and it economizes the process regarding manual production”, says Alfredo Brisac, CEO of BioDan Group, the Spanish bioengineering company specializing in regenerative medicine that collaborates in the research and which will market this technology.

Types of Skin Production

The production process of these tissues can be performed in two ways: “allogenic” skin, from a large-scale cell stock, for industrial processes; and “autologous” skin, created case by case from the patient’s own cells, for therapeutic uses such as severe burns.

Their success, among other things, is also because they use only cells and human components to produce a bioactive skin and generate their own human collagen, avoiding the use of animal collagen as other methods.

So I suppose we have to say thanks, Gutenberg. What would we be doing now if some old inventions were never created? Today is the skin, but tomorrow may be our hearts! Only the future and the science will tell.