Scientists make fabricated human skin pigmentation breakthrough

Researchers from Singapore discover how to use 3D bio printing to control the distribution of melanin-producing skin cells to produce human-like skin pigmentation

Scientists have developed a new method that enables them to control pigmentation in fabricated human skin.

The researchers from A*STAR's Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) and the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP) at Nanyang Technological University, have published a new paper in Biofabrication, in which they present their findings.

The paper outlines how the team have successfully used 3D bio printing to control the distribution of melanin-producing skin cells or melanocytes on a biomimetic tissue substrate to create human-like skin pigmentation.

Current engineered skin, commonly used in chemical testing for cosmetics, often lack complex features such as skin pigmentation, sweat glands or hair follicles.

Lead author Wei Long Ng said: “3D bioprinting is an excellent platform for the precise deposition of biomaterials and living cells to make biomimetic skin, in large volumes with great repeatability.

“However, non-uniform skin pigmentation is often seen, and this remains a huge challenge to be solved.

"Our aim with this project was to use this method to demonstrate the feasibility of making 3D in-vitro pigmented human skin constructs, with uniform skin pigmentation."

The scientists used a two-step bioprinting method to create hierarchical porous collagen-based structures that resemble the skin’s dermal region.

This method enabled the standardised distribution of printed cells in a highly-controlled way, compared with the result of a manual casting approach.

Wei Long added: “Furthermore, the bioprinting technique allows the manipulation of pore sizes within the 3D collagen-fibroblast matrices, to fabricate hierarchical porous structures that are clearly seen in the native skin tissues.

“In contrast, tuning the skin microstructure within the 3D collagen-fibroblast matrices using the manual-casting approach is extremely challenging."

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