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Grow Customized Skin

A team of scientists, chemists and tissue engineers at the University of Sheffield are working on a new way to grow large areas of skin for use in burn medicine.

The effort centers around the creation of a kind of "scaffold" or matrix upon which the skin can be grown right on the body.

The ultra-fine, three-dimensional scaffold, which is made from specially developed polymers, looks similar to tissue paper but has fibres 100 times finer.

Before it is placed over a wound, the patient’s skin cells (obtained via a biopsy) are introduced and attach themselves to the scaffold, multiplying until they eventually grow over it. When placed over the wound, the scaffold dissolves harmlessly over six-to-eight weeks, leaving the patient’s skin cells behind...

We’ve found that skin cells are actually very "smart" - it’s in their DNA to sort themselves into the right arrangement. They just need a comparatively uncomplicated scaffold (and each other) to help them grow in a safe, natural way," says Professor Tony Ryan, team leader.

The team realized that skin cells have all the "smarts" needed; the scaffold can therefore be made of a more passive medium. The process for making the scaffolds is based on a well-known technique called electrospinning. However, the team has made a key advance by developing a new method of making, from the same biodegradable polymers, aligned-fibre ‘mats’ that could be used to promote nerve or tendon growth. Their method is currently being patented.

One day, it may be possible to make entirely artificial skin for human beings.

This sort of makes me think of Frank Herbert's uniflesh from The Dosadi Experiment.

From Bespoke Skin.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/6/2008)

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