Major Breakthrough in Skin Cell Growth

One of the largest and most important organs of the human body, the skin is also one of the most difficult to treat when damaged.

One of the largest and most important organs of the human body, the skin is also one of the most difficult to treat when damaged.

Existing treatment options include painful skin grafts or hardly functional artificial skin.

However, significant advances have recently been made surrounding lab-grown skin.

Takashi Tsuji, PhD, RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, and his colleagues grew fully functional skin tissue and successfully transplanted it onto living mice models.

The study was published in Science Advances.

This milestone in dermatological sciences history paves the road for revolutionized treatment for burn victims or other patients awaiting reconstructive procedures.

On a less extreme note, this can serve to treat a more common, yet still embarrassing condition: hair loss.

The team transformed cells from the mice models’ gums into “induced pluripotent stem cells” to eventually manipulate them to become any type of cell in the body.

Researchers transplanted the stem cells, combined with the molecule Wnt10b, to mice bred without fully functional immune systems to prevent transplant rejection.

The Wnt10b was found to trigger an increased growth in hair follicles, which made the lab-grown skin tissue more like normal skin.

They noted that the cells easily connected with the surrounding nerve and muscle tissue thereby becoming “fully functional skin”.

Seth Orlow, MD, Chair of Dermatology, NYU School of Medicine in New York City, said in an interview with US News Health that the lab-grown skin could benefit patients suffering from alopecia and pattern baldness. “In theory, we may eventually be able to create structures like hair follicles and other skin glands that could be transplanted back to people who need them, like people who are born with a genetic condition which causes them to lack sweat glands or hair follicles.”

Orlow and experts do warn that up until now, all research had been done on mice models, so extensive studies are necessary to see how it’d work for human stem cells.

Tsuji said in a statement, “Up until now, artificial skin development has been hampered by the fact that the skin lacked the important organs, such as hair follicles and exocrine glands. With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue.”

Tsuji concluded, “We are coming ever closer to the dream of being able to recreate actual organs in the lab for transplantation, and also believe that tissue grown through this method could be used as an alternative to animal testing of chemicals.”