Scientists explore cosmetic possibilities of 3-D skin printing

Woman holding magnifying glass to skinTechnology which enables printers to produce 3-D copies is being harnessed by researchers at an English university, who hope that one of its most effective uses could be in producing a synthetic version of human skin. While efforts until now have failed to produce a realistic enough-looking product, a team at the University of Liverpool is working on a 3-D modelling technique which will aim to produce a copy of a person's skin which will look realistic in all light conditions. At present, such three-dimensional reproductions can only be made in one tone which, says an article on the university's website, "does not reflect the diversity of the surface which in real life will be patterned by freckles, veins and wrinkles".In conjunction with colleagues from the University of Manchester, the scientists hope to develop a new way of modelling skin, which will begin by refining technology available for capturing 3-D images. Dr Sophie Wuerger, from the Liverpool-based team, said their main task was to develop a way by which the skin produced could be so well-matched to patients' existing tones that it could not be distinguished by the human eye. "The science is at an early stage, but the advantages of 3-D printing for medicine are enormous," she added.