The skinny on bioprinting human skin

Welcome to CELLINK’s Blog! Starting now, we’ll share pieces every week that cover industry news, bioprinting tips, company happenings and more. Did you miss the last CELLINK webinar? Don’t worry! Here’s a recap of our conversation on bioprinting human skin tissue models.
Our speakers were Jim – CELLINK’s global applications specialist – and Isabella – CELLINK’s resident skin expert. In this seminar, Isabella talked about the skin printing project she performed here at CELLINK as part of her Master’s thesis.

Why 3D bioprint skin tissue?

Enhancing work in this area opens up a lot of possibilities, including:
  • Printing more complex and relevant tissue models.
  • Examining how cells interact with each other.
  • Reducing the need for animal testing.
All in all, developing validated human skin tissue models extends possibilities for data that is more accurate, reliable and observable in a lab.

Why 3D bioprint skin tissue?

Enhancing work in this area opens up a lot of possibilities, including:
  • Printing more complex and relevant tissue models.
  • Examining how cells interact with each other.
  • Reducing the need for animal testing.
All in all, developing validated human skin tissue models extends possibilities for data that is more accurate, reliable and observable in a lab.

How do you print a skin tissue model?

Isabella’s project used three major steps to print the skin tissue models. 1) Create the model, 2) cultivate the model and 3) validate the model.

Step 1: Creating the model

To create the model, Isabella made a blueprint based on the presentation and makeup of human skin.

Human skin has two distinct layers – the epidermis and the dermis. The dermis itself has two layers with different cell concentrations, so Isabella’s blueprint had a total of three layers.

While several types of cells can be found in the epidermis and dermis, Isabella’s project narrowed these down to one hallmark cell of each: keratinocytes and fibroblasts.

Step 2: Cultivating the model

Cells need bioink to replicate their natural environment, and Isabella wanted to identify the best CELLINK bioink for printing skin. She picked two that she thought would work well:

CELLINK-RGD: This bioink interacts with cell-surface receptors and ensures cell adhesion.

CELLINK-SKIN: The fibrin in this bioink promotes angiogenesis, and is critical for functions like homeostasis and wound healing.

She mixed each bioink with the keratinocytes and fibroblasts, and then cultivated the mixtures for two weeks.

Step 3: Validating the model

To validate the model, Isabella tested the cultures for cellular activity. She used immunofluorescence to stain keratinocytes and collagen type 1 cells, and noted two observations:

a) CELLINK-RGD maintains keratinocyte activity
b) CELLINK-SKIN yields superior fibroblast morphology.

How do I get started?

With these results in mind, Isabella listed a number of bioinks that are well suited for printing skin tissue models.

  • CELLINK FIBRIN and CELLINK SKIN. These are based on nanocellulose and alginate, and crosslink with an ionic solution.
  • GelXA FIBRIN and GelXA SKIN. These are based on gelatin and xanthan gum. They can be crosslinked with UV light or an ionic solution.

This was the first skin printing project at CELLINK – but you can expect many more to come from this growing area of research. Happy printing!

More from Our Blog

cells in collagen bioink

Got collagen?

Being the most abundant protein in mammals has earned collagen a special status in tissue engineering labs. But recent global supply chain disruptions have made finding a reliable supplier a truly Herculean race against time.

Read More →​