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This Lego 3D Printer Creates Synthetic Human Skin

A LEGO 3D printer creates synthetic human skin. It squirts a gel filled with living cells onto a dish. This is an odd-sounding yet medically useful process.

How the Lego 3D Printer works

A small LEGO Mindstorms computer controls the printer. It moves the dish backwards and forwards while the nozzle moves up and down. This allows the printer to build up layers of skin, replicating the structure of human tissue. The printer can also incorporate diseased cells into the skin, which could help scientists study skin diseases and even design new treatments.

The cost of the printer

The printer was designed by scientists at Cardiff University and cost just $630 to build. This is a fraction of the cost of most bioprinters. The scientist-inventors have shared the blueprint for free, as they wanted to design an affordable 3D bioprinter as an alternative to machines that can cost thousands.

The potential benefits of bioprinted skin

Bioprinted skin can be used in place of painful skin grafts or to treat burn injuries. The first human tissue was bioprinted 10 years ago when US firm Organovo bioprinted liver tissue. Since then, bioprinters have created products from ribeye steak to a human ear that was successfully transplanted in Texas last year. Meanwhile, Indian start-up NBIL bioprints skin on which cosmetics and pharmaceuticals can be tested safely and ethically.

The future of tissue engineering

The tissue engineering industry is growing fast. It was worth $16.1 billion last year and is forecast to be worth $50 billion by 2030. Bioprinted skin is just one of the many products that could be created by tissue engineers in the future.

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