Facial Skin Injury Could Be Healed with Bioengineered BioMask

November 19, 2018

Facial wounds or burns could one day be treated with skin tissue regenerated with the use of a 3-D bioprinted BioMask created by Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) scientists.

Skin injury or burns to the face are difficult to treat due to the varied contours and complex movement of the muscles. Current strategies to treat extensive facial wounds and burns are limited to the use of skin grafts and skin substitutes which can often lead to scarring, infection or graft failure.

In recent decades, the field of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering has emerged as an effective method for skin regeneration. Bioengineered skin substitutes can be created from both natural and synthetic materials and are most commonly placed directly on the skin wound site, but they are limited in size and some require a lengthy preparation time. And, with traditional skin grafts, many burn patients do not have enough unburned skin to harvest grafts. 

The BioMask could change all that. This proof-of-concept study, available online in the journal Bioprinting, involved the novel strategy of a customized, bioengineered skin substitute combined with a wound dressing layer to snugly fit onto a facial wound to regenerate skin.

“For patients who suffer from disfiguring facial wounds, the BioMask could one day be used as an effective treatment that would greatly improve their quality of life,” said lead author Sang Jin Lee, Ph.D., associate professor of regenerative medicine at WFIRM.

Lee said that 3-D bioprinting strategies for skin tissue engineering have led to the development of the BioMask which is flexible and easy to handle. The mask was created by using 3-D bioprinting customized with a face CT image. Then, wound dressing material and cell-laden hydrogels were precisely dispensed by the printer and placed in a layer by layer fashion to create the skin constructs into the mask shape. The resulting miniature mask consists of three layers -- a porous polyurethane support layer, bioengineered epidermis and a dermis layer.

To simulate skin regeneration on the face, the BioMask was applied to a facial skin wound bed created on a prefabricated face-shaped structure implanted under the skin of a mouse model. After seven days of application, the polyurethane layer was removed and regenerated tissue, consisting of epidermis and dermis layers, was observed.

“The BioMask could have great clinical impact for patients by providing effective and rapid restoration of facial skin following serious burn or injury,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., director of WFIRM and a co-author of the paper. “The bioprinting technology, combined with the face CT image, utilized for this concept allows for the fabrication of a personalized shape of a patient’s face so that we can take better care of the wound.”

Co-authors include: Young-Joon Seol, Joshua S. Copus, Hyun-Wook Kang, James J. Yoo, M.D., Ph.D., and Anthony Atala, M.D., all of WFIRM, and Hyungseok Lee and Dong-Woo Cho of Pohang University of Science and Technology, South Korea.

This study was supported, in part, by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (1P41EB023833-01). The authors have no conflicts to declare.

Media Contact
Bonnie Davis bdavis@wakehealth.edu