On a recent resupply mission to the international space station (ISS), NASA’s SpaceX-Dragon spacecraft carried many things necessary for scientific experiments, including supplies for crew members, and among other things, detergent and even a skin bioprinter, launching from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
While such missions are not uncommon, and are necessary for the sustenance of astronauts spending many months in space, what has piqued people’s curiosity in particular, is the bioprinter, believed to be portable handheld device that uses a person’s own skin cells to create a tissue patch to cover wounds and speed up the process of healing.
What is skin bioprinting?
In many scientific papers, skin bioprinting has been hailed as “a novel approach for creating artificial skin from synthetic and natural building blocks”, as mentioned on pubmed.gov. But how does tissue engineering work, a method used to accelerate the process of wound-healing?
While we wait for results from the ISS-based experiments, we reached out to an expert here on Earth. Dr Sachin Dhawan, senior consultant, Department of Dermatology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram said how our skin heals after an injury is determined by multiple factors including immune response and environmental changes.
“So, wound healing will be different in a spacecraft or moon, as opposed to Earth, as the pressure, gravity and environment composition is different. Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting for reconstruction of injuries involves layer-by-layer deposition of cells along with scaffolding materials over the injured areas,” he told indianexpress.com.
According to Dr Dhawan, bioprinting “enables accurate placement of cell types and precise and reproducible fabrication of constructs to replace the injured or damaged sites”.
“So, this quickens wound-healing and prevents wound infection, making an astronaut, for example, in space to go back to doing their duties. It’s an absolutely important advancement over natural wound healing especially for large wounds,” he concluded.