How Does It Work?
A First Step
Q:How does bioprinting work?
Bioprinting is an adaptation of various printing techniques for the creation of biological constructs. In the current project to print skin cells on burn wounds, a laser scans the wound to determine the size and depth, creating a "map" of the wound. A computer then controls the release of cells from the reservoirs into the print head, where they are delivered directly on the burn. The wound map is used as a guide so that the correct type and number of cells can be precisely placed on the wound.
Q:Why is this advancement so important for use with wounded soldiers?
Burn injury is a common cause of mortality in the battlefield, comprising 10 to 30 percent of all casualties. Skin is the body's largest organ and is very important because it is a barrier to infection and prevents the body from losing water and heat. Current treatment options are unable to fully address the needs of combat burn care. Substitute skin products are available, but they are limited in size and some require a lengthy preparation time. With traditional skin grafts, many burn patients don't have enough unburned skin to harvest grafts. A new approach is needed to immediately stabilize the wound and promote healing.
Q:What are the implications of this new technology?
If the technology is successful, its benefits will be to quickly cover a burn wound and promote healing. It would build skin in place, rather than having to surgically move skin from one part of the body to another. And, while this treatment will first be tested in new burns, it's possible that it could also be used to treat scarring from previous burns -- by removing the scarred tissue and rebuilding skin. In addition, it might be considered as a treatment for skin ulcers in patients with diabetes.
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