A fully human cell culture method to produce tissue for skin grafting has been developed. The study, published today in Nature Communications, suggests that this system could be used to provide safer treatment for severe burns and other skin conditions in the future.
Recently, skin grafting procedures have improved greatly, going as far as restoring 90% of the body surface of patients with severe skin wounds or burns. For such treatments, skin cells are collected from the patient and grown in cell culture in the laboratory to form a larger patch of tissue, which can then be grafted onto the wounds. Often cells derived from mice are added to the culture to support tissue growth, but this human/mouse cell mix exposes patients to the risk of infections and adverse immune reactions.
Karl Tryggvason and colleagues found that two specific variants of proteins called laminins, normally present in the human body, can support the growth of skin cells in a similar way. This finding allowed them to completely remove the use of mouse cells and create a fully human, animal-free cell culture system for skin grafting. They then demonstrated that skin tissue obtained using this method could be successfully grafted onto mice.