Researchers from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences report replicating a crucial component of our blood may aid wound healing.

The findings are published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials in a paper titled, “3D Printed Scaffolds Incorporated with Platelet-Rich Plasma Show Enhanced Angiogenic Potential while not Inducing Fibrosis,” and led by researchers at the Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) and SFI AMBER Centre based at RCSI’s department of anatomy and regenerative medicine.

“Successful therapeutic strategies for wound healing rely on proper vascularization while inhibiting fibrosis,” the researchers wrote. “However, scaffolds designed for skin tissue engineering generally lack the biochemical cues that can enhance their vascularization without inducing fibrosis. Therefore, the objective of this work is to incorporate platelet-rich plasma (PRP), a natural source of angiogenic growth factors, into a gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) hydrogel, yielding a bioink that can subsequently be used to 3D print a novel regenerative scaffold with defined architecture for skin wound healing.”

PRP is a natural healing substance in our blood. The new study explores ways of enhancing the wound healing process by extracting PRP from the blood of a patient with a complex skin wound and manipulating it through 3D printing.

The researchers’ results demonstrated that application of the 3D-printed PRP implant helped to speed up the healing of the wound by enabling efficient vascularization (meaning development of new blood vessels) and inhibiting fibrosis (scarring/thickening of tissue), both of which are essential for effective wound healing.

“Existing literature suggests that while the PRP already present in our blood helps to heal wounds, scarring can still occur,” explained Fergal O’Brien, professor of bioengineering and regenerative medicine at RCSI. “By 3D-printing PRP into a biomaterial scaffold, we can increase the formation of blood vessels while also avoiding the formation of scars, leading to more successful wound healing.

“As well as promising results for skin wound healing, this technology can potentially be used to regenerate different tissues, therefore dramatically influencing the ever-growing regenerative medicine, 3D printing, and personalized medicine markets.”

The RCSI research team collaborated with researchers from the 3B’s Research Group at the University of Minho and ICVS/3B’s Associate Laboratory in Portugal, the Trinity Centre for Biomedical Engineering and AMBER, and the SFI Centre for Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research.

“This disruptive technology offers the opportunity for a patient’s autologous growth factors to be incorporated into a tailored 3D-printed scaffold in theatre prior to implantation, as part of a single-stage procedure, and has potential in other tissue engineering applications in which enhanced vascularization with limited fibrosis is desired,” concluded the researchers.