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Scientists Aim To 'Print' Human Skin

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the epidermis-load-letter-what-does-that-mean dept.

Medicine 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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77 comments

And next, the "enhancements"... (0)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255058)

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!

Re:And next, the "enhancements"... (5, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:And next, the "enhancements"... (1)

Geotopia (692701) | more than 3 years ago | (#35274648)

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 Erectile Deficiency, but it involved chisels and sheep skin and I don't think it actually worked.

Re:And next, the "enhancements"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35256340)

That should easily take care of any enlistment or retention problems the Army is having.....

Re:And next, the "enhancements"... (1)

Noitatsidem (1701520) | more than 3 years ago | (#35256724)

Oh definitely, until of course, y'know... The immune system starts attacking the foreign cells. That might be a small bump on the road.

Re:And next, the "enhancements"... (1)

monkyyy (1901940) | more than 3 years ago | (#35257908)

get it replaced,"no u cant leave yet ur dick will fall off, you will stay here to fight in the war till we find out how to make such 'enhancements' permit"

Re:And next, the "enhancements"... (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 2 years ago | (#35256584)

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

The printers will be cheap. (4, Funny)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255062)

But the cartidges will cost you an arm and a leg (literally!)

Re:The printers will be cheap. (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255356)

"PC Load Human Flesh" WTF does that mean?

Re:The printers will be cheap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259756)

Human: "PC, Load Human Flesh"

PC: "Human, come closer"

Wait a second... (0)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255066)

This is just the industrial military complex finding better ways to kill brown people.

Oh wait...

Other pleasant thoughts. (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35257316)

On a tangentially related topic, my little sister once had a little internship with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. It basically consisted of giving puncture wounds to rats.

Re:Other pleasant thoughts. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35260040)

Sounds like a rathole kind of job.

Inkjet? (4, Funny)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Inkjet? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255274)

Shut up. You're not funny.

Re:Inkjet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255630)

The device sells for $49.95, but if you want a refill of skin cells, that's $500...

And that's only for pasty white, if you want the Melanin "color" cartridge that will be extra.

Nothing new (5, Interesting)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255078)

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.

http://www.mirm.pitt.edu/news/article.asp?qEmpID=328 [pitt.edu]

Re:Nothing new (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255396)

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.

Re:Nothing new (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255470)

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.

Re:Nothing new (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#35256268)

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 a patchwork of scar tissue and endless rounds of grafting surgery.... No chance of replacing band-aids until it is essentially 100% safe; but that doesn't sound like the target market.

Re:Nothing new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35256280)

Not quite - while this is probably the hardest bit skin is surprisingly complex, you need hair (as appropriate), sweat and oil glands, so a decent amount of structure is needed. Preferably you also want to be able to dictate levels of the above three as well as thickness, although severe burn patients will be happy with any respectable substitute which does not have to be pealed of other parts of their body.

Builds on damaged tissue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255080)

Beware the foreskin paper jam!

Potential (2)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255082)

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

Re:Potential (1)

K8Fan (37875) | more than 3 years ago | (#35256950)

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.

5 to 20 percent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255088)

How is there that large of a margin? A fifteen percent difference seems rather large. I would think that something like that should be well documented, and leave little room for guestimation.

Re:5 to 20 percent? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255202)

Biology is inconsistent. The patients with 5% improvement are probably the ones whose bodies don't heal well after burns and don't accept the graft very well. The 20% do heal burns well and readily accepted the graft.

Not improvements - injuries... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255768)

TFA is talking about "5% to 20% of combat-related injuries" - not the number of grafts that are successful.

As for why does it vary that much...
Well, data mentioned is probably taken from a source that lists various ways a soldier could be hurt - compared to various duties and services.
So, pilots might have much greater incidence of falling from a high place and breaking various bones than say.. a cook.
On another hand, drivers probably have a much higher incidence of various car accident related injuries than sailors.

Same goes for burns, or any other form of combat-related injury.

Spray-on skin (4, Informative)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255094)

This reminds me of spray-on skin for burn victims

http://gizmodo.com/#!5749968/spray+on-skin-is-a-reality?comment=36596030 [gizmodo.com]

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.

PC Load Letter? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255136)

What the fuck does that mean?

The important question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255138)

Will the printer run Linux?

Re:The important question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255546)

"lp0 on fire"

Rep Rap Human? (1)

moteyalpha (1228680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255188)

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.

Wait until the porn industry gets hold of this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255216)

Printable Fleshlights... RAWK!

I'm sick tired (0, Troll)

ntropia (939502) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255268)

...of "$LATEST_BIOMEDICAL_ADVANCE that can be used to heal soldiers butchering other human beings".

A cure for any of the thousands neglected diseases all around the world would affect more people than the imperial troop$, but no, we need to print skin for them.
I'm wondering if they plan to release also the photographic "paper" quality, you know, to restore the macho tattoos back to perfection...

Here we go: http://www.eatliver.com/i.php?n=6835 [eatliver.com]

Re:I'm sick tired (4, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255302)

You know, the Red Cross was initially founded to help wounded troops. Now, they do disaster relief, humanitarian missions, etc. They keep thousands from dying all across the world every year. Many medical advances that we take for granted today came about through the treatment of wounded soldiers. Just because this technology is being used for soldiers does not mean it will never be developed for civilian use as well.

Re:I'm sick tired (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255462)

When I was in the military medicine was sometimes a curse and a blessing. Early adoption often means being the second round of testing. The boomers will start seeing things and even know one that had a new fangled prosthetic made after having cancer removed.

Re:I'm sick tired (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255328)

right because nobody normal ever needs a skin graph after an accident or burn injury. thanks for deciding what's best for the world.

Re:I'm sick tired (1)

ntropia (939502) | more than 2 years ago | (#35256174)

That's exactly my point.

It will be a game-changer for burn and chemical injuries, but it wasn't thought for that: civilians will be "collateral damages" of the goal of the research. Eventually all military researches will be available for civilians, sure, but like penicillin, when they waited for the WWII to end (and sure it would have make a lot of difference for the work of the Red Cross).
Why never throw a penny on cancer research too, though?

I think it is just plan stupid these researches must be triggered by military interest.

Re:I'm sick tired (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255524)

If you bothered to use your brain for a 2#$!% minute, you would realize a few things:

1) Soldiers are not out there because they wanted to, they decided to serve their country so you could stay home and play your video games. If they did not sign up in enough numbers, they would force you to serve as soon as they run out of volunteers. Remember every time that a soldier gets killed or looses his legs because of a bomb, that it could had been you out there had he and many others not volunteered.

2) It is good to know military budget goes into medical research that can also be used to save civilians in, say, burning buildings and not entirely to develop new guns and bombs.

Re:I'm sick tired (2)

denzacar (181829) | more than 2 years ago | (#35256330)

If you bothered to use your brain for a 2#$!% minute, you would realize a few things:

1) Soldiers are not out there because they wanted to, they decided to serve their country so you could stay home and play your video games. If they did not sign up in enough numbers, they would force you to serve as soon as they run out of volunteers. Remember every time that a soldier gets killed or looses his legs because of a bomb, that it could had been you out there had he and many others not volunteered.

Or cause it is the only job they can get as there are not that many opportunities around. Or to pay for college. Or cause they are members of the Green Card Brigade. [military.com]
As for "your ass there instead" - there is always Canada. That is, unless your dad can arrange for you to "serve" behind a desk somewhere.
Or to dick around in a military jet. [wikipedia.org]

2) It is good to know military budget goes into medical research that can also be used to save civilians in, say, burning buildings and not entirely to develop new guns and bombs.

$9.7 billion budget [army.mil] divided over 5 million beneficiaries, 27,000 soldiers and 28,000 civilian employees, another 20,000 active-duty medical soldiers in field units, plus over 30,000 medical soldiers in the National Guard and Army Reserve.

That is only 1.29% of the $721.3 billion DOD budget, which is again only between 49.7 and 68% of the annual US Military budget. [wikipedia.org]
So it's actually more like 0.64 - 0.87% of the total military budget, for 2011 alone.

Just to illustrate how ridiculously little that is...
A person making ~$50k a year, who would donate $50 each month to medical R&D - would do more for medical research funding, per dollar earned, then the entire military and defense budget of the United States of America.
That is less than $2 a day.

Soon I'll have to stop trapping women in my van (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255294)

with a couch.
Oh good...Are you about a size 8?
It puts the lotion on its skin.

Would be nice if they could print other organs... (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255338)

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.

Re:Would be nice if they could print other organs. (4, Informative)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#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

Re:Would be nice if they could print other organs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35256322)

I could see this also be useful for food.
why grow a whole cow when the ribeye is all you want?
grow the cells in a bioreactor, turn them into a printable paste, print the meat out on a collagen supstrate (also printed) and voilla, steak that is dirt cheap.

with the amount of people eating meat on the rise, this should take a huge cut out of pollution and world hunger. you could even do vegetables and all sorts of other food this way. Sort of like an autokitchen in the known space series

Re:Would be nice if they could print other organs. (1)

monkyyy (1901940) | more than 3 years ago | (#35257932)

why print, all u need is a cookie cutter in the right shape

Re:Would be nice if they could print other organs. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35259986)

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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeJPBuBEJ50

Re:Would be nice if they could print other organs. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255428)

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 structure. Organs that have a complex 3D structure, and whose function absolutely depends on that structure, will present additional challenges.

On the plus side, if you can solve the cell tractability problem, 3D printing isn't exactly an unknown technology...

Re:Would be nice if they could print other organs. (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35256974)

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.

Print some fingerprints (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255346)

n/t

Is this not obsolete alredy? (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255484)

I mean, I am no doctor, but does not the Skin Gun [youtube.com] covered by National Geographic recently already makes this entire process basically obsolete?

Re:Is this not obsolete alredy? (1)

pz (113803) | more than 2 years ago | (#35256514)

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 hand-holding a problem, and subject movement a bigger problem), the Skin Gun is it.

However, the Skin Gun apparently can currently only treat 2nd degree burns.

Re:Is this not obsolete alredy? (1)

Wallslide (544078) | more than 3 years ago | (#35257314)

"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.

National Organization For Restoring Men (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255494)

will be interested in this. printing replacement foreskins to restore men's birthright!

Nazi lampshades (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255556)

Suddenly the market for Nazi lampshades just skyrocketed.

Bound and Printed in Human Skin (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255616)

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!)

Please Release to Civilians (3, Insightful)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255756)

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.

red vs. blue (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255794)

they only prepare the dawn of the american empire and its dissolution into the reds vs. the blues.

Here's a bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35256496)

I'd bet that more civilians suffer horrific skin damage than do soldiers. that could be used in the future to treat soldiers wounded on the battlefield. Read as: "Just make sure our funding is bulletproof." In fifty years being an American soldier will entail so little risk this country won't need a valid reason to prosecute a war. We'll just do it.

Re:Here's a bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35256692)

In 50 years US will be what the UK was in 1945, a place that lives on handouts from their friendliest strong neighbor and wags its tail as needed. You can take a guess if it is gonna be Brazil or the China. You witnessed the beginning of the collapse with your own Boer wars in the Middle and Far East in the past decade.

Re:Here's a bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35257038)

That might not be so bad. There's lots of countries that are wonderful places in which to live and not being a super power doesn't appear to bother them at all. They can't be America, of course, because they're too deep into the heavy government hand-outs type of socialism. Nor are they the crazy bunch of mongrels that we are. That's why the Constitution can work; we don't have all those centuries of baggage that Europe has. But our politicians and courts keep subverting the mechanisms of justice the framers provided for just the sort of mess we're in right now. The slide can be averted, of course. A couple dozen two hundred year prison sentences, properly applied, would do wonders. You just have to convince the populace of how messed up things are. That's where people like Glenn Beck come in. If you're being constantly reminded that some men are fucking each other you never calm down enough to notice that almost all politicians are to some degree corrupt. Some are probably very corrupt. It's all been said a long time ago; Eisenhower's warning against the Military-Industrial Complex, and Lord Acton's "Power corrupts..." Yea, we're fucked up right now, but so is the EU and China (take a gander at *their* economy, it's gonna blow) and that basket case that's Japan. There isn't a country in the world that can deal with a mess like this other than we nutcase Americans, for the reasons above. We just need to get our heads out of our asses. I'm thinking we'll do it, but we always seem to go the the brink before we wake up. If we don't, well, we'll get that comeuppance my mom always said we had coming...

Cuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35256608)

We need more fiscal restraint and budget cuts, darn it! Enough of this technological progress! Lower taxes!! STOP GOVERNMENT SPENDING!!! /s

Battlefield?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35256960)

Maybe we should stop fighting wars and then we won't need to 'print' skin... Why couldn't they use burn victims as an example?

Paper Jam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35257426)

I'm guessing that a paper jam would look like Hannibal Lecters kitchen after a dinner party

One small step ... (1)

Troll-Under-D'Bridge (1782952) | more than 3 years ago | (#35258602)

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.

Old, old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35265534)

Hate to burst all your bubbles Yanks, but here in Australia we've had spray on skin technology for decades. By the way, you're violating our patents. We'll be around shortly to collect. Pay up you bludgers!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spray-on_skin [wikipedia.org]

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