Incidence of burns:
Burns are the leading cause of deaths and deformities worldwide. According to an estimate of WHO (World Health Organization), more than 180,000 deaths were caused by burns in the year 2018. Healing of the burn wounds is an intricate and slow process that can even be very painful.
Burn wounds are fatal because they can weaken the body’s immune system and remove the skin barrier to several foreign objects and organisms which can enter inside the body and cause infections by getting their way into the bloodstream.
According to recent research conducted by the University of Toronto, they have invented a device known as a handheld 3D printer, which is capable of depositing bio-ink loaded with stem cells directly into the wounds like burns for promoting tissue healing. This device resembles the paint-roller, which can be applied to the surface of the wound in stripes containing biomaterial for the healing of the wound.
According to a recent advance in research, this hand-held device can be used to deposit the bio-ink inside the tissue to accelerate the healing speed. Mostly, skin grafting is a technique used to manage large burn wounds. But now, with the development of this printer, researchers hope that it will help in managing large wounds that are otherwise difficult to treat with conventional treatments as skin grafting.
Currently, skin grafts are used to replace the lost tissues in burns. However, in cases of large wounds or burns, it can be challenging to find healthy skin for skin grafting. According to the researcher involved in this research, big wounds don’t have enough and healthy skin available for healing, which eventually leads to death.
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In order to address this issue, researchers have invented an innovative handheld device that aims to provide a great alternative for skin grafting. The first prototype of this device was revealed in the year 2018, but in recent years they have actually shown how this device can be used for regeneration of wound surface.
According to Axel Guenther, a researcher involved in this innovative research, previously, they could only prove that it is possible to deposit cells inside the burn tissue, but now they have demonstrated that how the process can be carried out? and what are the benefits of wound healing?
Working of the device:
This device uses a microfluidic printhead (single-use), helping to preserve the process of sterility. In order to transfer the bio-ink from printer to wound surface, a soft wheel-like roller depositor is attached to the printer tip, which can transfer it in a stripped and even manner. This bio-ink gets to set inside the wound surface within two to three minutes, which helps it to stay in place.
Bio-ink used in this printer is composed of some biomaterial like MSC (mesenchymal stromal cells), which are capable of differentiating and helping the healing of a wound by accelerating its speed and less development of post-healing wound scars. Bio-ink also contains other materials as fibrin and collagen, which are otherwise present in the skin usually.
Mesenchymal stromal cells can differentiate and divide into any type of specialized cells depending upon the environment in which they are kept. In the case of bioprinters, these mesenchymal cells help in the reduction of scarring and promotion of skin regeneration.
Collagen is a body protein that helps in the growth of cells, and fibrin is another protein that helps in healing the wounds by promoting blood clotting.
The weight of this device is about 0.9 kgs, which makes it more portable and easier to use in comparison to currently used 3-D bioprinters, which are rather bulky or work with low working speed leading to more expenses and incompatibility in the clinical application of these devices.
How is this device useful?
According to a research member Dr. Marc, this device is a “game-changer” for saving the lives of people because it can totally change the approach and practice currently used to manage burns and care of trauma.
This bioprinter lets the surgeons have full control over the composition and dimensions of the sheet, which means they can print the new cells on to the affected area with accuracy, precision, and effortlessly without making the procedure complex and painful.
Since the year 2018, this device has been through ten redesigns as the research team aims to develop a design that surgeons can easily use inside the operation theatre. The current design of the device is single-use printhead (microfluidic) for ensuring sterilization and a soft wheel to allow the more precise control to handle the case of the wider wound area.
Researchers have also said that they want to reduce the amount of post-healing scars along with the acceleration of healing. The main focus of researchers will be to move forward towards the in-vivo side.
According to researchers, this handheld device will be regularly used in practice within four to five years after some important and crucial technical adjustments. This device can be proved to change medical practice totally.
Future aims of the study:
As described earlier, this device will be regularly used in medical practice within 5 years, but along with the aim to accelerate the wound healing, researchers are also focusing on making the wound scarring minimal as a result of wound healing for giving a more acceptable and aesthetic look to the body.
Burn wounds are one of the leading causes of death globally. Management of burn wounds is a time taking, complex, and painful experience. Wounds tend to give an entry to foreign impurities inside the body to cause infections and inflammations. The current treatments or managements offered for wounds are skin grafting, but in the case of larger wound areas, availability of healthy and clear skin from other body parts is quite challenging.
In order to compensate for this challenging issue, research has developed a handheld bioprinter that directly deposits the skin sheets over the larger area of the wound. Bio-ink composed of biomaterial present in these printers can help in the acceleration of the healing process. This device tends to cover the area of wound in an even and stripped manner.