Student inventors of 3D bioprinter in running for international Dyson Award

Two engineering students from the University of Toronto, who were named the Canadian winners of the 2014 James Dyson Award last month for inventing a bioprinter that can 3D print functional human skin using a patient's own cells, are hoping for international recognition in November. That is when the international James Dyson Award winners will be announced, which brings with it a hefty cash prize.

Arianna McAllister and Lian Leng created the PrintAlive Bioprinter in collaboration with Professor Axel Guenther, alumnus Boyang Zhang, and Dr. Marc Jeschke, head of the Sunnybrook Hospital Ross Tilley Burn Centre in Toronto. The device prints large, continuous layers of tissue that recreate natural skin.

BioprinterWith serious burn victims, doctors typically must remove part of the patient's healthy skin and graft it onto the burned area. PrintAlive could eliminate this painful step, according to a press release from the University of Toronto. Hair follicles, sweat glands, and other human skin complexities can be printed with the device, providing an on-demand skin graft for burn victims.

Moreover, the machine uses the patient's own cells, which McAllister said "would completely eliminate immunologic rejection, and the need for painful autografting and tissue donation."

No larger than an average microwave, PrintAlive is portable and can print skin grafts on the go, potentially revolutionizing burn care in rural and developing areas around the world.

"Ninety per cent of burns occur in low and middle income countries, with greater mortality and morbidity due to poorly equipped healthcare systems and inadequate access to burn care facilities," said Jeschke. "Regenerating skin using a patient's own stem cells can significantly decrease the risk of death in developing countries."

Since 2008, the team has developed hundreds of design iterations to optimize how the machine operates. Recently completing a second generation, precommercial prototype of the machine, they hope to scale up their device from its current benchtop process to a higher volume automated process.

Having won $3500 in this leg of the competition, the duo now hopes to garner the international James Dyson Award, which offers a prize of more than $60,000 to inventors and their university. It will be announced in November.

The award was created by vacuum tycoon James Dyson to inspire students around the world to "design something that solves a problem."

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