Two years ago, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology in Germany had the idea of a skin factory. They wanted to be able to produce low-cost skin that can be used for clinical testing.
That idea is now a reality.
In a sterile and climate-controlled factory, computers control the robots, blades and lasers that produce the skin. In it, pink solutions that are constantly monitored for infection are squeezed through small pipes and come out as human skin. These are then cut into discs the size of a penny. The factory produces 5,000 of these discs per month. The objective is to mass-produce human tissue that can be used for treating injuries and other medical conditions.
According to director Heike Walles, it is even possible to efficiently produce bigger tissues such as bladders and even human organs but only through facilities like this. Indeed, she and several others have successfully produced engineered tissues suitable for transplantation on humans. However, that process is still very expensive and requires too much work. She believes a simpler and cheaper method can only be achieved using a fully-automated manufacturing factory.
Based on European Union regulations, several stages of successful animal testing are required before clinical testing on humans can be allowed. Currently, It is still a long way from human transplantation.