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Scientists Aim To 'Print' Human Skin 77

suraj.sun sends this excerpt from CNN: "Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, inspired by standard inkjet printers found in many home offices, are developing a specialized skin 'printing' system that could be used in the future to treat soldiers wounded on the battlefield. 'We started out by taking a typical desktop inkjet cartridge. Instead of ink we use cells, which are placed in the cartridge,' said Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the institute. The device could be used to rebuild damaged or burned skin. ... Burn injuries account for 5% to 20% of combat-related injuries, according to the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine. The skin printing project is one of several projects at Wake Forest largely funded by that institute, which is a branch of the US Department of Defense. Wake Forest will receive approximately $50 million from the Defense Department over the next five years to fund projects, including the skin-creating system. Researchers developed the skin 'bio-printer' by modifying a standard store-bought printer. One modification is the addition of a three-dimensional 'elevator' that builds on damaged tissue with fresh layers of healthy skin."
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Scientists Aim To 'Print' Human Skin

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  • As soon as they get this working (or half working), the sleaze-bags will be promoting the same technology for "enhancements". After the burn treatment, we can give you bigger privates, private!
    • by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:52PM (#35255200)

      Viagra was initially researched by Pfizer as a treatment for angina, and just happened to fix erectile dysfunction *really well*. That doesn't make Pfizer sleazy, just like plastic surgeons aren't sleazy for giving a chick bigger tits if she wants them. Don't lie to yourself, you're judged on your physical appearance (or, in this case, "proportions"). Who cares if guys buying bigger dicks fund the R&D for regenerative medicine? Money is money.

      • The article said,

        "Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, inspired by standard inkjet printers found in many home offices, are developing a specialized skin 'printing' system"

        So, I pulled up an old Newspaper article from 15250 BC (amazing what Google has scanned in to date!), and it had this:

        "Grog and Togoth at the second cave after the boulder, inspired by standard sprayed blood found in caves, are developing a specialized skin 'printing' system."

        They also had a solution for Male

    • How about restoring said parts to the way they SHOULD be? Circumcision reversal, here we go!

  • by mswhippingboy ( 754599 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:33PM (#35255062)
    But the cartidges will cost you an arm and a leg (literally!)
  • This is just the industrial military complex finding better ways to kill brown people.

    Oh wait...

  • Inkjet? (Score:5, Funny)

    by M. Baranczak ( 726671 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:34PM (#35255076)

    The device sells for $49.95, but if you want a refill of skin cells, that's $500. And if you buy refills from a third party, they'll charge you with a DMCA violation. It's a perfectly legitimate business model.

  • Nothing new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Khyber ( 864651 ) <> on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:34PM (#35255078) Homepage Journal

    We've got a better one already made. It's nothing more than a fancy airbrush and heals burn wounds MUCH faster than this device. []

    • Re:Nothing new (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @04:25PM (#35255396) Journal
      I strongly suspect that the delivery mechanism is by far the most boring part of either of these systems.

      Spraying fluids and/or particle/fluid aerosols with greater or lesser precision is a basically solved problem. Yours for $50 at Best Buy or your local hobby shop. Yawn.

      Stimulating high-speed tissue regrowth, without it turning into a horrible mass of scar tissue and/or cancer, on the other hand, is the cutting edge bit. Mammalian tissue regeneration is rather more conservative than we would like, leading to permanent loss of tissue and limbs, and ugly scarring; but naive stimulation of cell growth, or introduction of pluripotent cells, has an ugly habit of reminding you why that level of conservatism turned out to be evolutionarily adaptive...

      Once you solve the hard problem of producing a safe and effective cell/drug/nutrient/whatever slurry that does what you want it to do, it likely barely matters if you use an inkjet, an airbrush, a paintbrush, or just finger-paint it on. The "ink" is the interesting bit.
      • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

        Stimulating high-speed tissue regrowth, without it turning into a horrible mass of scar tissue and/or cancer

        Yep! Until you can prove the genome of the cells used in the ink are all 100% cancer-free, count me out. However, for a burn victim whose only other treatment option is infection and a slow death, I might be willing to give it a shot.

        • Given the lousiness of conventional treatment for serious burns, and the relative ease of detecting many skin cancers, I suspect that a risk of cancer well above 0 would be acceptable(especially since ordinary human skin has that anyway). You would certainly want results markedly better than the "naive and desperate getting stem-cell shots in seedy offshore clinics" level, but even having to pick off a melanoma every few years would almost certainly be both better quality of life, and cheaper, than enduring
  • by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:34PM (#35255082) Journal
    As the grafting process becomes more seamless, I wonder if it might be put to other uses, like tattoo removal. Or even applying tattoos.
    • by hitmark ( 640295 )

      Hell, how about adding a layer of skin with a kevlar weave or something similar.

    • ...and remove or modify fingerprints permanently.
    • by K8Fan ( 37875 )

      As the grafting process becomes more seamless, I wonder if it might be put to other uses, like tattoo removal. Or even applying tattoos.

      That is exactly what I was thinking, that, in a few years time this is going to be the growth business of all time and all those tattooed kiddies hit 30 and try to get real jobs, instead of working at Starbucks or Kinkos.

  • Spray-on skin (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kelbear ( 870538 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:36PM (#35255094)

    This reminds me of spray-on skin for burn victims!5749968/spray+on-skin-is-a-reality?comment=36596030 []

    That just blew me away. Instead of weeks of painful recovery and permanent disfigurement, the burn victim is treated in about a week with little or no scarring.

  • Yes, but would it be cheaper to print a page with a skin cartridge or with an ink cartridge?

    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      Don't give HP ideas, or we'll have printer insurance lobbyists all over state legislatures by summertime.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Will the printer run Linux?
  • I want a printer that prints a person from stem cells that can design a skin cell printer.
    Perhaps if you include the HOX proteins in a separate "color" cartridge you could print random critters.
  • Any possibility of this technology being adaptable for treating people with cancer? Also, it would be damn cool if they could use this technology to print tissue for organs other than skin.
    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @04:18PM (#35255354)
      From the article:

      Other universities, including Cornell University and the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, are working on similar projects...These university researchers say organs -- not just skin -- could be printed using similar techniques.

      So, they're working on it

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Wake Forest has already demonstrated printing organs from a modified ink jet printer. I'm not sure why the article makes it sound like the idea is exclusive to other universities. Here's a short clip from NOVA on this very topic:

    • I suspect that almost any basic research in the "stimulate tissue growth without provoking immune rejection or cancer" genre will eventually have applications to regrowing organs; but there will be additional complications.

      Skin(in addition to being an attractive target because it gets damaged a lot and ugly scarring tends to be psychologically problematic) has the advantage of (comparatively) simple geometry. It is a fairly thin membrane with(again comparatively) limited and homogeneous vascular structur
      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        I was thinking that it'd be great if they could, for example, print lining that could be put inside of a person's stomach actually... I can't imagine that being much more complex than skin... just very resistant to acid.
  • I mean, I am no doctor, but does not the Skin Gun [] covered by National Geographic recently already makes this entire process basically obsolete?
    • by pz ( 113803 )

      NatGeo (assuming the video is not a fake) reporting on something gives it serious credence. The Skin Gun looks like it's absolutely amazing, and will nearly eliminate many of the problems faced by many burn victims.

      Screw printing skin with an inkjet (which is kind of a silly idea anyway since skin is in no way a nice flat plane, and you really want to be printing directly onto the body which is also essentially never planar, and the operating distance for inkjet printers is really, really small, making han

    • "This video contains content from National Geographic, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds." Phew CRISIS AVERTED. Good thing researchers in Japan can't see this stuff... next thing you know they'd be creating Terminators.
  • Finally, I can put into mass production my revised & updated Necronomicon 2nd Edition! I hope the printer's drivers support the most diabolical font-face: Comic Sans! (Bwa ha ha!)
  • With this device there would be no Silence of the Lambs.
  • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @05:45PM (#35255756) Homepage Journal
    I have a couple of friends who have been the victims of some rather nasty burn injuries. They've come out of the experience healthy and dandy well down the road, but each one of them counts the experience as a life-changing event. Any technology that can help severe burn victims should be released to the civilian sector as well.
  • to molecular printing and the Star Trek economy (without the warp drive, tractor beam, and transporter).

    I remember seeing a BBC (?) video somewhere about some research lab printing some human organ prototypes. The prototypes weren't functional in themselves but supposedly will be used as scaffolding for embedded heart/lung/etc sells to grow on, thus requiring the success of another technology, stem cell manipulation.

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