While Beauty may only be skin deep, that might actually be a positive for companies like L’oreal who are starting production of their own 3-D bio printed skin for commercial use in 2022. While the idea of mass-producing skin in a lab will have some peoples’ skin crawling, it’s hard not to see the wide range of scientific and commercial applications of Bioprinting.
The process of Bioprinting first involves analyzing specific tissue structures. The analyzed cells serve as the framework for producing “bio-ink”, a multicellular cellular brick that are assembled together to form larger tissue constructs. Like a normal 3D printer, the bioprinter applies the bio-ink in multiple vertical layers, building up the tissue over a period of time. Compared to the traditional 2D in-vitro skin models, Bio printed 3D skin better represents the structures that skin cells naturally form.
The cosmetics and skincare industries have reaped the benefits of breakthroughs to 3D bioprinting in recent years. Lab engineered skin serves as an alternative to traditional animal testing models, reducing costs by a significant amount and sparing many animal lives in the process. 3D bioprinting also allows cosmetics companies to specifically tailor their product for certain demographics without halting mass commercial production of their goods. One interesting application of increased cosmetic personalization comes from the Chinese cosmetic company the Jala group. The Jala Group’s innovation comes from their unique 3D bioprinting of Asian-like skin for use in specialized cosmetics testing. Despite the differences in skin structure and texture due to environmental variables such as diet, environment and air quality, many cosmetics are only tested for fair skin which is not applicable for all skin types. The 3D bio printed skin designed by the Jala group is a complex skin structure, consisting of the basement membrane, the dermis and the epidermis. If research into 3D bioprinting for the cosmetics industry continues it might be possible to have cosmetics companies specially tailor their products to user-specific skin types for the greatest degree of specialized skin care.
Skin when compared with other forms of tissue is highly regenerative even when subjected to traumatic injury. However, underlying appendages like hair follicles and sweat glands that have important homeostatic functions cannot fully repair themselves. Thus, regenerated scar tissue lacks the important functional capabilities of normal healthy skin. For severe skin injuries, clinics perform various forms of skin replacements including autografts (replacement from patient’s own skin), allografts (skin replacement from a donor), and xenografts (skin coming from other species). But due to the risk of rejection, miniscule number of applicable skin donors, and the limitation of skin replacements to small-scale skin damage; new cost-efficient treatments are needed for traumatic skin injuries.
Researchers at the National Nature Science Foundation of China were able to bio print a 3D-Extra cellular matrix capable of differentiating specific cells in functional skin and regenerating damaged skin appendages. The process of bioprinting for skin regeneration first involves collecting skin tissues from patients through a skin biopsy. By using the patient’s own skin, as the foundation for bioprinting the risk of rejection is decreased significantly. The skin sample is then cultured in vitro to produce a suitable number of cells. When enough skin cells are cultured, they are mixed with various biomaterials (cellulose, alginate, collagen, chitin, and hyaluronic acids) to form the bio-ink used by the 3D bioprinter to create a replica of the patient’s skin. It is important to note that the 3D bio printed skin lacks the vascular network of normal skin preventing it from distributing nutrients and oxygen. Until this challenge is addressed 3D bio printed skin cannot be affixed long term without biological consequence however, further research into micro-vessels and the fabrication of synthetic vascular systems is promising.
Although 3D bioprinting technology has had numerous technological breakthroughs in the past couple years, there are still many challenges ahead for researchers and companies looking to adopt the technology. Yet, the high level of flexibility, high throughput and specificity of bioprinting make it enticing for everyone to have skin in the game. We will undoubtably see further developments in bioprinting within the next decade if not sooner. But until then, watch out for your daily skincare with moisturizer and sunscreen to preserve it for as long as possible.
And while it might not be lab-engineered skin, check out the skin-models available on the Edvotek store to have a nice visual representation of the different skin layers in your home or classroom. https://www.edvotek.com/EVT-337 & https://www.edvotek.com/EVT-050. Thanks for reading and
I hope you enjoy the holidays!
P. He, J. Zhao, J. Zhang, B. Li, Z. Gou, M. Gou, X. Li Bioprinting of skin constructs for wound healing Burns Trauma, 6 (2018), p. 5, 10.1186/s41038-017-0104-x://doi.org/10.1111/iwj.13003
Wang, R, Wang, Y, Yao, B, et al. Beyond 2D: 3D bioprinting for skin regeneration. Int Wound J. 2019; 16: 134– 138. https://doi.org/10.1111/iwj.13003