Getting Closer to the Real Thing: Researchers from Singapore to 3D-print Human Skin Pigmentation

Human Skin Pigmentation

Over the past year, we’ve seen a rapid progress in 3D printing, especially in the medical sphere where bioprinting is a big thing. From printed blood vessels to whole working organs the possibilities are huge. Just recently, a team of Singapore researchers from Nanyang Technological University came up with a method to add skin pigmentation to 3D-printed skin tissue.

A Lack of Complex Features

Today 3D-printed skin is already used for different things such as grafting, skin repair, chemical testing, and toxicology testing as well as fundamental cell biology research. But still, the skin constructs lack complex features natural skin has to offer, for example, hair follicles, sweat glands, and pigmentation. The new technique developed by scientists and engineers from the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) as well as Nanyang’s Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP) might now open the doors for allowing the pore size to be manipulated and thus create more uniform skin pigmentation.

3D Bioprinting as the Perfect Solution for Human Skin Pigmentation

According to lead author, Wei Long Ng 3D printing is an excellent platform to precisely position the biomaterials and living cells to produce the biomimetic skin in large volumes with great repeatability. In order to create the pigmented skin constructs, the team used three different types of skin cells: keratinocytes, melanocytes, and fibroblasts. Together with their two-step drop on demand bioprinting method, they managed to develop the human skin pigmentation. Scientist Wei Long Ng explains the process:

“The two-step bioprinting strategy involves the fabrication of hierarchical porous collagen-based structures (that closely resembles the skin’s dermal region), and deposition of epidermal cells such as keratinocytes and melanocytes at pre-defined positions on top of the biomimetic dermal skin constructs, to create 3D in-vitro pigmented human skin constructs.”

Long Ng states that there are two distinct differences between 3D-printed skin constructs and their method: The cell distribution on top of the dermal regions, and the microstructures within the dermal regions. The two-step bioprinting strategy enables to control the distribution of the printed cells much better than the manual casting approach.

What’s another big advantage compared to manual techniques is:

“ … the bioprinting technique allows the manipulation of pore sizes within the 3D collagen-fibroblast matrices, to fabricate hierarchical porous structures that are clearly seen in the native skin tissues. In contrast, turning the skin microstructure within the 3D collagen-fibroblast matrices using the manual-casting approach is extremely challenging.”

This new method is a great progress in the field of bioprinting and might be a big leap for medical uses.

What do you think about their technique? Leave us a comment in the section below.