A new, 3D-printed tissue implant that incorporates a patient’s own blood components could help speed up skin wound healing. Researchers from Dublin’s RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences have developed a bioink from platelet-rich plasma to print a novel implant that enhances healing and inhibits scar formation. Scientists from 3B’s Research Group at the University of Minho and ICVS/3B’s Associate Laboratory in Portugal, AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research, and the Trinity Centre for Biomedical Engineering collaborated on the project.

The regenerative growth factors in blood platelets naturally heal wounds and repair damaged tissue. Blood is drawn and spun in a centrifuge to separate these growth factors from other components, resulting in a thick serum known as platelet-rich plasma, or PRP.

Using PRP from individuals with complex skin wounds, the research team designed a bioink containing a gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) hydrogel. The team then 3D-printed a scaffold with a defined architecture that features a controlled release of the growth features present in the PRP for up to 14 days. 

In lab tests, the implant boosted the formation of blood vessels, thus speeding wound healing compared to standard gel implants. The results also indicated that the PRP implant did not produce myofibroblastic cells, which are responsible for scar tissue.

A simple surgical procedure to embed the implant within the skin could potentially lead to superior wound healing. The team believes this type of regenerative implant can apply to other kinds of wounds and tissue damage. The researchers published the study results in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.