Now, a team from Germany's Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft science institute have created a way to mass-produce artificial skin (complete with blood vessels) that can be used for grafts, plastic surgery, or even cosmetics testing.
Indeed, in addition to providing new skin to burn victims, these swatches of artificial skin can take the place of animals in medical and cosmetic testing. And since the swatches can be made to contain blood vessels as well as skin cells, scientists can run circulatory as well as skin-related experiments on them.
The system is fully automated, with computers controlling the solution that the skin grows in, monitoring the vats for infection, guiding the blade that cuts the swatches, and even testing the quality of the final product.
The basic skin production system, which may be available as early as next year, can produce 5,000 swatches of human skin a month, for a total of over 600 square inches of mass-produced tissue. Each 0.12-square-inch section of skin would cost around US$49 to produce -- considerably less than the current cost.