Printing Skin Cells on Burn Wounds
Skin is the body's largest organ. Loss of the skin barrier
results in fluid and heat loss and the risk of infection. The
traditional treatment for deep burns is to cover them with healthy
skin harvested from another part of the body. But in cases of
extensive burns, there often isn't enough healthy skin to
During phase I of AFIRM, WFIRM scientists designed, built and
tested a printer designed to print skin cells onto burn wounds. The
"ink" is actually different kinds of skin cells. A scanner is used
to determine wound size and depth. Different kinds of skin cells
are found at different depths. This data guides the printer as it
applies layers of the correct type of cells to cover the wound. You
only need a patch of skin one-tenth the size of the burn to grow
enough skin cells for skin printing.
During Phase II of AFIRM, the WFIRM team will explore whether a
type of stem cell found in amniotic fluid and placenta (afterbirth)
is effective at healing wounds. The goal of the project is to bring
the technology to soldiers who need it within the next 5 years.
This video -- with a mock hand and burn -- demonstrates the process.