Researchers have successfully grown complex skin tissue – complete with hair follicles and oil-producing sebaceous glands – in the laboratory, thereby opening a path to creating functional skin transplants for burn and other patients who require new skin.
The scientists were then able to implant these three-dimensional tissues into living mice, and the tissues formed proper connections with other organ systems such as nerves and muscle fibres.
“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, which allow the skin to play its important role in regulation,Â” said lead researchers Takashi Tsuji from RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology in Kobe.
To perform the work, published in Science Advances, the researchers took cells from mouse gums and used chemicals to transform them into stem cell-like induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) cells.
The researchers were able to make these cells to form the different layers and structures of deeply layered skin.
One important key to the development was that treatment with Wnt10b, a signaling molecule, resulted in a larger number of hair follicles, making the bioengineered tissue closer to natural tissue.
“With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue,Â” Tsuji noted.
“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,” Tsuji said.