Doctors are faced with limited choices when it comes to damaged or burned skin. People with severe burns face years of skin grafts and rehabilitation that can be agonizing. Worse, doctors are limited by the amount of skin a person has available to be taken and grafted onto other areas — a process that risks infection and disfiguration. Restoring feeling to grafted skin is touch and go as well. New advances in science — including skin grown in the lab — will make skin grafting a thing of the past and skin regeneration a possibility.
Lab-grown skin gets its start from your own skin — a minute amount (via biopsy) is used to grow what you need — in a controlled environment on a matrix material that looks like tiny lattice frames. The skin includes all layers and stem cells as well.
One breakthrough in skin regeneration is through 3D “bioprinters” — which work by adding successive layers that build on each other guided by capable software. The “layers” are created using genetic material from your own body. The “printing” process works much in the same way 3D printing currently works.
Think of a regular printer that uses various inks to generate a photographic image. Instead of inks and flat paper, sprayer jets build layers using whatever materials technicians add (plastics, metals, etc.). 3D “bioprinting” —the term used to describe organic creations — works the very same way, though biological materials are loaded into the supply cartridges in lieu of plastics and other materials.