Developing ECM-based bioinks for bioprinting human skin equivalents with Atiya Sarmin

In this interview, we spoke to Atiya Sarmin (Queen Mary University London, UK) about her project developing bioinks for 3D printing human skin 'equivalents'.

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I am a second year PhD student at the Blizard Institute at Queen Mary University of London (UK). I completed my undergraduate studies at The University of Southampton (UK) in biomedical science and went on to do an MRes in cancer biology at Imperial College London (UK) before starting my PhD.

Could you tell us about any current (or recent) projects?

In my PhD research, I am currently developing advanced models of wound healing and inflammation using 3D bioprinting. I have been working on producing an ideal ECM-based bioink to use to bioprint skin and wound healing models. These include a gelatin and hyaluronic acid bioink and a porcine skin decellularized ECM bioink.

How are 3D printing and bioprinting technologies involved with your work?

Current in vitro skin and wound healing models lack complex features of human skin, such as hair, vasculature and immune cells. These models can exhibit batch-to-batch variation and are very simple, often modelling just the bilayer organization of skin. 

By using 3D bioprinting, we hope to produce a more advanced model that better recapitulates the architecture, complexity and functionality of human skin.  

What challenges with creating human skin equivalents does 3D bioprinting help to overcome?

Using 3D bioprinting we can achieve more accurate and replicable models as it allows spatial control of cells and matrices and we can control and determine the matrix porosity. 

Also, we can produce complex models by bioprinting defined patterns and complex geometries using multiple cell types, molecules and materials. 

3D-bioprinted skin models are being researched globally and are showing promising results compared to the current in vitro models.

How do you see your work translating into the medical field? How long do you think it might be before we see bioprinted human skin used in practice for wound healing?

The skin equivalent models I am developing are ideal for research purposes, however using similar approaches and materials, skin grafts can be (and are being) bioprinted for translational applications. 

3D bioprinting technologies are transformative and have a lot of potential, so it may not be long until we see bioprinted human skin used in the clinic.

What’s next with your research? What should we be looking out for?

I hope to incorporate immune cells to study wound closure on the bioprinted models. It would also be interesting to see how vascularized models of wound healing behave. It would be great to see further cutaneous research be pursued using this advanced in vitro model, where it could potentially contribute to new discoveries of cellular and molecular mechanisms of skin biology and wound healing.

Where do you see bioprinting in the medical field in 5–10 years’ time?

I think well-studied tissues, such as skin, bone and cartilage, could quite possibly be bioprinted and cultured as nearly fully functional organs/tissue. 

I think it is within our reach to achieve well established bioprinted models that can be utilized for research and possibly for translational applications.

Do you have any final comments about medical 3D printing, bioprinting, bioink development or even the demand for human skin equivalents you would like to share?

I think the full potential of 3D printing and 3D bioprinting technologies are yet to be explored in biological science and medicine. 

These technologies are fast developing, and it might not be too long before we see full integration of 3D printing and bioprinting into research, drug discovery and medicine. A lot of research is going into developing optimal bioinks for bioprinting, but once that has been achieved I think there will be very quick progression in making human organ equivalents.

The opinions expressed in this feature are those of the interviewee/author and do not necessarily reflect the views of 3DMedNet or Future Science Group.

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