April 2023

Print this issue

Health Capsule

3D Repairs for Damaged Skin

To repair burns and other skin injuries, surgeons can grow new patches of skin in the lab. But these patches are usually small, and their shapes are limited. Using such patches on complex structures like the hands or face requires lots of cutting and stitching. This can cause damage and scarring.

Researchers are working to find ways to grow 3D skin in the shape of complex body parts. In a new study, a team tested a system to grow skin in the shape of a human hand. They also grew 3D skin grafts to fit the shape of mouse legs. These “wearable” skin grafts are designed to fit on the body like clothing.

The researchers scanned body parts and then used 3D printers to create hollow scaffolds in the desired shapes. Then they grew skin cells on the scaffolds. The cells were bathed in different liquids to encourage the growth of layers similar to natural skin.

After a month, the grafts had a uniform covering of outer skin cells. When tested, the new 3D skin was stronger than standard flat grafts.

The team finally tested their 3D grafts by transplanting them onto injured mouse legs. The mice regained full functioning of their legs within four weeks.

“Three-dimensional skin grafts that can be transplanted as ‘biological clothing’ would have many advantages,” says Dr. Hasan Erbil Abaci of Columbia University, who led the study. “They would dramatically minimize the need for stitches, reduce the length of surgeries, and improve the look of repaired skin.”