When it comes to news about wars, stories are often focussed on the mortality rate. Obviously, this is a very important part of wars and something which needs to be reported of. However, the world sometimes forgets about the wounded soldiers. The number of U.S. soldiers with serious injuries has increased, according to Michael Romanko, an official at the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) by the Department of Defence. The U.S. army therefore wants to try its luck with bioprinting.
The U.S. army currently invests in the technique and is investigating how it could help them to treat wounds. By printing skin cells on the patient, they hope to be able to recover wounds fully. Burns, which account for 10 to 30 percent of all war injuries, could potentially be recovered by bioprinting news layers of skin. The aforementioned AFIRM was therefore established in 2008. It is a network of universities, military laboratories and investigators and they focus on fields such as skin repair.
Dr. Romanko recently made an interesting statement about it:
“There was an increasing need to deliver therapies for wounded warriors. We saw a spike in the severity of the trauma that these Soldiers were receiving. As we increased the quality of battle armor, the injuries they were surviving were that much more debilitating. The scars that Soldiers develop as a result of burns constrict movement and disfigure them permanently. The initiative to restore high-quality skin that is elastic and complete with sweat glands, appropriate pigmentation and hair follicles is incredibly important.”
So how does this bioprinting approach work? Each burn is first being scanned, after which a 3D model sees the light. They use a device which looks like an inkjet printer using skin cells instead of ink, and the computer gives orders to the printer about the exact patterns of the skin. When this is done, each cell will be where it needs to be, and can start growing in order to become real skin. They have been testing their system a lot and their early research results seem to be promising.
Image credits: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.