How Bioprinting Can Help Wounded Veterans Returning Home
Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) have been working to implement bioprinting to aid soldiers returning home with significant injuries. They helped form the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM), an $85 million dollar project focusing primarily on those wounded defending our country overseas. Scientist and researchers are combining their brainpower to establish therapies focusing on burn repairs, wound healing to limit scarring, craniofacial (face and skull) reconstruction, limb restoration (reconstruction, regeneration, or transplantation), and defending against compartment syndrome after surgery.
Burns account for more than 10% of war casualties and can drastically impair everyday functions for veterans returning stateside. The issue with traditional skin grafts is that more often than not there isn’t enough skin left on from the wounded veteran’s body leftover to use. A new approach is necessary to avoid this situation, as the longer an open wound is exposed, the higher the risk of infection and other complications. The goal at AFIRM is to establish a form of treatment that will cover the open wound and stabilize it quickly.
Researchers at AFIRM are laboring to develop a common, bioprinted dressing that can act as a barrier from infection, while meshing quickly with the patients existing skin tissue. Scientists are trying to efficiently and effectively ‘print’ skin cells directly over burn wounds. They strive to ‘print’ these skin cells over the injury by first scanning over the open wound using a laser to distinguish a ‘map’ of the wound.
This determines the size and shape of the injury before establishing where to place each cell type. The bioprinter would then lay down this dressing over the wound, fit to the exact measurements of the opening. This dressing creates a barrier to exposure and infection while the skin cells can adapt with the biomaterial to create a ‘skin-like’ product, replacing tradition skin grafts.