Only recently has biological 3D printing started to climb the slope from hype to productivity; on the near horizon are artificially printed skin tissues and grafts, with biologically sound organs still being the most sought-after prize in the area.
Renovacare has developed an autologous, skin cell enhanced spray that's been used with great effect on burn victims, incorporating bioprinted cells that are grown from the patient's skin tissue. It reduces severe burn recovery from weeks and weeks to just a few days, with astonishing results.
Current research suggests that bioprinted organs might get a blood supply within less than ten years. With autonomous cars set to usher in an era of much safer roads (and less organ donors), this could be a welcome alternative to patients who are waiting years, and in some cases dying, before they can get a transplant.
Drug and cosmetics companies are joining the foray too. L'Oreal is putting massive resources behind bioprinting, with hopes to eradicate the industry's reliance on animal testing.
Biofabrication is technology that can be accessed and leveraged right now, especially with skin. Researchers have demonstrated reliably that they can generate over 100cm2 of brand new skin in under 35 minutes. So why aren't we seeing an infrastructure revolution yet?
New technological breakthroughs, especially in regulated and country-specific industries such as finance, medicine, construction, and law, must be empowered in novel ways and avenues through a concerted, joint effort from the existing industry, the innovators, and the regulators. This isn't going to change overnight. Countries and governments that succeed in precipitating this change will become the world leaders in successful, meaningful innovation.
And their citizens might just be the first to try out that brand new skin.
Initial transplants into mice also suggest that it’s safe, though the synthetic skin has yet to be approved for use in humans. Other organizations, such as L’Oreal, are also attempting to create skin using similar approaches.