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Last year, 3d.FAB (3D Fabric of Advanced Biology), the Lyon Tech-La Doua campus 3D printing platform, announced the launch of a research programme for a large-scale 3D printing project directly onto the skin of burn victims. The project is funded by the Directorate General of the Armed Forces (DGA), which is interested in its application in war zones and operating theatres.

The project is supported by a consortium of laboratories and companies including: LabSkin Creations, Hospices Civils de Lyon’s Cutaneous Substitutes Laboratory (Laboratoire des Substituts Cutanés), and 3d.FAB. LabSkin Creations and 3d.FAB previously patented their 3D printing and skin reconstruction system. First used for cosmetology testing, the consortium now hopes to develop and implement a 3D bio-printing system in operating theatres. The device would consist of an articulated arm (marketed by BioAssemblyBot), and the skin cells would be taken directly in the operating theatre. This would enable large areas of burned skin to be treated, and the required thickness created.

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At the preclinical stage, the consortium considered animal testing before launching clinical trials in 2018 or 2019.

Spotlight: The developmental phases of bio-printing in Lyon

Laboratoire des Substituts Cutanés (skin substitutes laboratory) was created by Odile Damour, pharmacist and biologist, at Edouard Herriot Hospital. Today, in partnership with Saint-Luc Hospital, it forms the largest burn victims treatment centre in France. In 1989, Lyon researchers published a first study on “reconstructed skin”. Odile Damour will take a leading role in the development of tissue engineering in Lyon; her work consists of reproducing the skin “in test-tube”. Today, the Laboratoire des Substituts Cutanés is renowned for its research on improving skin cell culture, which is vital for burn victims.

LabSkin Creations, for its part, was created in 2015, and is a pioneer in skin reconstruction. It provides skin samples to manufacturers in the cosmetology sector, enabling them to perform research on ageing and the effect of UV exposure. Its patented technique enables the reconstruction of the dermis and epidermis over a culture period of only 21 days, compared with 45 in conventional in vitro culture.

3d.FAB is an innovative printing platform created in 2016, specialised in bio-printing. In addition to printing skin, the lab goes further and also prints cartilage and bones, and soon the cornea. 3d.FAB is part of ICBMS (Institute of Molecular and Supramolecular Chemistry and Biochemistry) and was created to provide solutions to companies and academic laboratories in the health sector.