Scientists are developing an inkjet printer that can create “made to measure” skin and bones to treat people with severe burns or disfigurements.
The University of Manchester team say the inkjets will be able to “print out” tailor-made human cells to fit a patient’s exact dimensions.
Human cells are suspended in a nutrient-rich liquid before being printed out in several thin layers.
Project leaders say the method could be used to build an organ in a day.
Prof Brian Derby, head of the Ink-jet Printing of Human Cells Project research team, said the technology has tremendous potential.
He said: “It is difficult for a surgeon to reconstruct any complex disfiguring of the face using CT scans, but with this technology we are able to build a fragment which will fit exactly.
“We can place cells in any designed position in order to grow tissue or bone.
“Using conventional methods, you are only able to grow tissues which are a few millimetres thick, which is fine for growing artificial skin, but if you wanted to grow cartilage, for instance, it would be impossible.”
The printers create three-dimensional structures, known as tissue scaffolds.