Researchers at the Fourth Military Medical University in Xi’an, China, have successfully bioengineered artificial skin using adult stem cells derived from bone marrow. The new skin was tested in an animal model, where it was found to exhibit less wound contraction and better healing as well as better blood vessel development than other types of skin grafts. Applications of this new type of skin include not only therapies for wounds and burns but even organ reconstruction.
As one of the latest advances in tissue engineering, the new skin was tested in an animal model using pigs, whose skin is histologically similar to that of humans. The artificial skin was bioengineered in the laboratory with adult stem cells derived from bone marrow, and was then grafted to the animals where the dermal layer began to regenerate and the stem cells naturally differentiated into new skin tissue.
As the body’s largest organ, skin provides a number of functions which include serving as a physical barrier to disease as well as offering protection from external damage, in addition to performing certain chemical functions such as regulating body temperature. If seriously damaged from disease or burns, however, skin does not easily heal itself, and burn victims often die of secondary complications such as infection or the loss of blood plasma. Skin grafts were originally developed to address this problem, but now adult stem cells represent a significant improvement over conventional skin grafts.
In fact, the applications of this new type of skin extend far beyond dermatological uses. As Dr. Yan Jin of the Fourth Military Medical University and a coauthor of the study states, "We hope that this so-called ‘engineered structural tissue’ will someday replace plastic and metal prostheses currently used to replace damaged joints and bones by suitable materials and stem cells."