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Skin is the body’s largest organ as it covers the full human body. Burning is one of the major causes of skin deformity. After a burn accident, loss of the skin barrier results in fluid and heat loss and the risk of infection putting the victim to further risks.

The traditional treatment for deep burns is to cover them with healthy skin harvested from another part of the body called grafting. However  when the victim has extensive burns, there often isn’t enough healthy skin to harvest.

Researchers at WFIRM had designed a printer which can directly print skin cells onto the burn wounds. During phase I of AFIRM, WFIRM scientists designed, built and tested a printer designed to print skin cells onto burn wounds.

Skin cells often require different kind of “ink” and the researchers hope to crack different types of inks soon. According to the report a scanner is used to determine wound size and depth. Similarly different kinds of skin cells are found at different depths. All this data is mapped and feed to the skin cell printer which then applies layers of the correct type of cells to cover the wound.

The researchers say that now only a patch of skin one-tenth the size of the burn to grow enough skin cells for skin printing. Once the Phase I is completed, the researchers will proceed to the Phase II. During Phase II of AFIRM, the WFIRM team will explore whether a type of stem cell found in amniotic fluid and placenta (afterbirth) is effective at healing wounds.

The researcher hope to invent a full scale skin printing machine in 5 years with primary application in the field of military for soldiers who need it most.

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