Lab-grown skin works like natural one for first time

© Shannon Stapleton
Scientists have grown skin with the same functions as normal tissue for the first time. The bioengineered skin has great potential to transform treatment for burns and provide an alternative to drug testing on animals.

“Up until now, artificial skin development has been hampered by the fact that the skin lacked important organs, such as hair follicles and exocrine glands, which allow the skin to play its important role in regulation. With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue,” lead scientist Takashi Tsuji from the RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology said in the press release.

“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,” he added.

The study was conducted by scientists from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Japan, Tokyo University of Science and other Japanese institutions.

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The team of scientists started the experiment by using stem cells taken from mice’s gums to create a tissue with multiple layers containing hair follicles and sebaceous glands. The structure resembled a developing embryo in an actual body. Next, they implanted the multi-layered skin into living mice with a suppressed immune system, in which the whole structure developed even further. Not only did it sprout hair but formed “proper connections with other organ systems such as nerves and muscle fibers” – something that is key for it to function like a natural part of the body.

The results of the latest research were reported in the journal Science Advances.