3D printing has been used to create everything from car parts to smartphones, but the latest application is just a little creepier.
Scientists in Spain have printed a fully-functioning replica of our largest organ, skin, and they’re set to start selling it to cosmetics firms.
The lab-grown tissue is being touted as a substitute for animal testing, and as a source of transplants for burns victims.
The synthesised skin is one of the first living human organs created using bioprinting to be introduced to a marketplace and can be created in one of two ways, depending on the application.
For industrial processes, such as chemical testing, the skin is mass-produced from a batch of cells. But in transplants, the skin is tailor-made from the patient’s cells.
“We use only human cells and components to produce skin that is bioactive and can generate its own human collagen, thereby avoiding the use of the animal collagen that is found in other methods,” the scientists wrote in a study announcing the breakthrough, which has been published in Biofabrication.
Alfredo Brisac, CEO of BioDan Group, a Spanish bioengineering firm which is commercialising the technology, said: “This method of bioprinting allows skin to be generated in a standardized, automated way, and the process is less expensive than manual production.”
It’s not the first human organ to be created using 3D printing. In April 2015, scientists bioprinted a miniaturised heart and a miniatured liver in a study which heralded that 3D printing could bring an end to animal testing.