The team led by King’s College London and the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center developed the first laboratory-grown epidermis -- the outer layer of skin -- similar to real skin.
"The ability to obtain an unlimited number of genetically identical units can be used to study a range of conditions where the skin’s barrier is defective due to mutations in genes involved in skin barrier formation, such as ichthyosis (dry, flaky skin) or atopic dermatitis, (eczema)," Dr. Theodora Mauro, leader of the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center team, said in a statement.
"We can use this model to study how the skin barrier develops normally, how the barrier is impaired in different diseases and how we can stimulate its repair and recovery."
The new skin is grown from human pluripotent stem cells -- stem cells that have the potential to differentiate into almost any cell in the body. Under the right circumstances, the stem cell can produce almost all of the cells in the body.
The human induced pluripotent stem cells can produce an unlimited supply of pure keratinocytes, the predominant cell type in the outermost layer of skin that closely match keratinocytes generated from human embryonic stem cells.
The artificial skin forms a protective barrier between the body and the environment keeping out microbes and toxins, while not allowing water from escaping the body.
The findings were published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.