10 March 2020

NNF grant to develop 3D printed human skin


Scientists from SDU, DanStem and the Department of Pharmacy awarded NNF grant to develop 3D printed skin for humans

Learning how to synthesize artificial human skin (as well as other organs) is one of the greatest challenges faced by scientists today. The benefits are many and include better treatment of wounds, pharmaceutical research without animal testing and effective research of diseases.

The field is still in its infancy, and with a grant of DKK 15 mio from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Associate Professor Jonathan Brewer and Assistant Professor Kedar Natarajan, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from SDU, together with Associate Professor Jakub Sedzinski from DanStem, and Professor Jörg Kutter from the Department of Pharmacy at KU, are now joining the ‘race’ to develop 3D-print skin for humans.

All over the world, labs are working intensively to synthesize artificial human skin - where several scientists have actually succeeded in creating something that resembles human skin.

However according to scientists, there is still no perfect recipe for creating it and the way is still a long before an artificial skin will have the same qualities as real human skin.

One of the problems of an artificial skin today is related to the quality of robustness and elasticity. Artificial skin is very fragile and too easy to tear, compared to real skin.

Another problem is the skin tone; today all artificial skin looks the same - solid white. It is important to be able to recreate a unique and ‘customized’ skin tone that matches the patient's own skin.

The group of scientists is interested in the basic research aspects and plans to examine the mechanical properties of the skin and learn how the different skin layers react to different stimuli.

These experiments can supply them with valuable knowledge that may be used to create new and better types of artificial human skin.

Another goal is to be able to print skin with variations. For example, adding cancer cells during printing, or adding hair follicles in order to study hair formation and growth.

An important additional benefit is avoiding animal testing by pharmaceutical industries, where tests could be made on the artificial printed skin.

The prospects of developing individually synthesized artificial skin for patients are great. Right now, for example, it takes three weeks to grow skin for burns in patients. Developing a series of artificial printed standard skin types that could be stored as ready-to-use solution in hospitals can provide a fast and effective solution to treat acute burns.

It is too early to say whether this is all possible, but the scientists believe that this project could add value also when it comes to the development of other artificial organs.

Now, the body rejection to the artificial skin is a big challenge however, the scientists believe it is resolvable.

Project title: Multiscale approach to engineer 3D bio-printed physiological human skin for use in basic and applied research.