Argentinian researchers develop new 3D bio-printed wound dressings for diabetes sufferers
The article was originally published on 3ders.org.
This pioneering new project was supported by CONICET, Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council. It was carried out by a team based at the Nanobiomaterials Laboratory, in Buenos Aires’ Center for Research and Development in Industrial Fermentations (CINDEFI). CINDEFI and CONICET have worked on several innovative 3D bio-printing systems before, including an award-winning dual-syringe printer which is capable of combining polymers in unique ways.
Besides the daily work of having to continuously regulate their blood sugar levels, an extra concern that many diabetics face is their increased likelihood of infections. Diabetes is a condition that affects the nervous system as well as peripheral vascularisation. What this means is that diabetes sufferers tend to be less sensitive to prolonged rubbing of the skin and injuries, and these injuries will also take significantly more time to fully heal.
During the extended healing process of their skin wounds, ulcers formed of dead tissue can often form underneath wound dressings, which are favourable for the growth of micro-organisms and bacteria. This can result in patients being affected by all kinds of dangerous skin infections, often ones as severe as gangrene.
According to a World Health Organization report, around 422 million people worldwide are affected by these chronic wounds and infections. The team at CINDEFI set out to find a way to tackle this issue, drawing on the increasing accessibility of bio-fabrication methods and the improved design freedom offered by 3D printing technology.
Starting out with a focus on leg and feet wounds, the solution the team developed involved the 3D scanning of the affected skin area. This scan was then used to generate a design for a wound dressing that could be 3D printed in order to perfectly fit the patient’s skin, optimizing its cauterization capabilities. An antibiotic would also be incorporated in the dressing, in order to fight any bacterial infections that might grow around the dead tissue.
According to senior researcher Guillermo R. Castro, "(Printing) dressings of (personalized) characteristics would allow, at the same time, that the therapies be customized not only in terms of the shape and depth of the injury, but also the type of antibiotic and the dose to be administered, bearing in mind that many people present reactions adverse to certain drugs."
The 3D bio-printing process made use of a special bio-based gel material. This macro-molecular bio-polymer facilitates the growth of the cells needed to repair wounds on the skin, as well as being easy to model into the required shape and pattern to fit the wound and effectively administer antibiotics. A new printing system was designed from scratch in order to develop this treatment, and the total printing time for each wound dressing should be no more than half an hour. If the technology demonstrates successful results, it could soon be applied for a greater range of wound types on different parts of the body. Not only this, but it could also be used to help in the treatment of lesions caused by burns, which are susceptible to many of the same problems.