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Lab-grown skin shows promise as better option for burn victims

The skin was grown from the cells of a mouse using a technique scientists say could be used for scientific testing and burn victims.

By Stephen Feller
Lab-grown skin shows promise as better option for burn victims
The Japanese scientists say growing skin for burn victims using their own cells will lead to better grafts of properly functioning skin. Photo by S_L/Shutterstock

TOKYO, April 4 (UPI) -- Scientists in Japan have grown skin that has hair follicles and sweat glands, which they say could lead to better functioning skin for burn victims.

The skin, grown with cells taken from a mouse's gums, was implanted in a mouse and integrated well, suggesting a grafting technique superior to other standard methods, the scientists report in a study published in the journal Science Advances.

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In addition to creating skin with the working biological components of skin, the scientists suggest the technique described in the study could be used to create realistic skin samples for drug and cosmetics companies to test products on.

"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," Dr. Takashi Tsuji, a scientist at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, said in a press release. "With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue."

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The scientists turned cells from mice gums into induced pluripotent stem cells. The cells were then nudged into differentiating into the types of cells that make up layers of skin.

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The grown skin samples were then implanted in "nude" mice, where they connected to surrounding tissues, including the epidermis, arrector pili muscles and nerve fibers, and grew hair follicles and sweat glands.

 

In the study, the scientists suggest an assay system or animal model alternative for experiments and testing, as well as organ replacement for burn victims.

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

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