Scientists Create Human Skin Printing Machine Out of Lego


| LAST UPDATE 05/08/2023

By Stanley Wickens
3D Lego Skin Bioprinter
Boston Globe / Contributor via Getty Images

A team of scientists has designed a state-of-the-art machine out of everyone's favorite plaything, Lego. In fact, the bioprinter these geniuses created is capable of producing three-dimensional structures of human skin! You heard us right - human skin. The bioprinter, developed from standard Lego blocks, uses a gel-like substance filled with cells to make a three-dimensional structure that resembles human tissue. Thanks to this innovative technology, scientists can study and improve healthy and unhealthy human skin in ways that have never been possible before.

As we all know, available human tissue samples for scientific research are not in abundance and finding appropriate ones can be tough. Besides that, tissue sample sizes and types are often limited. To combat this issue, the scientists created an inexpensive and easily accessible machine that can develop these kinds of tissue samples. The technology behind their 3D bioprinter involves loading "bio-ink" containing living cells into a cartridge before loading it into the bioprinter. Once programmed, the bioprinter prints the cell-laden bio-ink to form 3D structures that aim to replicate the complex formation of biological tissue.

human skin biology research
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However, 3D printers can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds, a price that's just too steep for most research teams. This is where Lego comes in. Lego is well-known for its versatility, precision and standardized parts that are easily accessible worldwide. The team then built their Lego bioprinter, which only cost £500 ($624) to build, accomplishing the requisite precision to produce delicate biological material. Today, their bioprinter is able to construct layers of skin cells to create a full-scale skin covering and can also be modified by using different types of nozzles to print various cell types for a variety of complexities in tissue samples. The scientists believe that this breakthrough technology will enable them to analyze both healthy and diseased skin while designing innovative therapies to treat various skin diseases.

The exciting possibility is that their Lego 3D bioprinter will not only provide us with a more accurate representative model of human skin, but it will also add diseased cells to the healthy models they produce. Furthermore, it would allow us to study how skin conditions develop and how healthy and sick cells interact. It would allow us to see how skin diseases progress and how potential treatments can be developed. The team, from Cardiff University, has made detailed instructions on how to reconstruct this device in any lab worldwide because they believe this Lego bioprinter will allow researchers to conduct ground-breaking research that will ultimately lead to improved biological understanding, and potentially improve human health.

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