Aalto University School of Chemical Technology and BIT Research Centre are collaborating on an ambitious project called ArtiVasc 3D, aiming to manufacture artificial vascularised skinusing 3D printing technology. Artificial skin is intended primarily as a model for pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries partly allowing reduction of tests on animals. Furthermore, it has potential to be used to develop skin grafts in the treatment of burn injuries and associated trauma.

Because artificial tissue to be 3D printed consists of polymers, an enormous challenge facing their development is for them to acquire the right properties: they need to be both liquid and quick to harden. In addition, the resulting tissue must be elastic and appropriate for use with the human body. Blood vessels, on the other hand, can be printed out using inkjet technology, whereas smaller capillaries are produced using high resolution two-photon laser technology. After that, the vessel structure is enclosed in a surrounding network consisting of a hydrogel combined with a fleece of nano sized e-spun fibres, which function as growing media for different types of cells. The vessel structure allows for an optimal metabolism of the artificial skin and a ready supply of nutrients.

The project, funded under the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme, started in 2011 and is due to end in October 2015. In all, 16 partners from around Europe are involved in this multidisciplinary undertaking.

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