Skin grown with follicles, glands and nerves could transform burns treatment and offer alternative to animal testing
A genetic marker placed in the bioengineered skin cells tell scientists where the transplanted tissue is located. If the treatment makes it into humans, the glowing protein wouldn't be included. © Takashi Tsuji, RIKEN
Bioengineered skin complete with functioning hair follicles, glands and nerves has been grown using a new technique that could transform burns treatment and end cosmetics testing on animals.
Working with mice, scientists in Japan created the skin by first producing three-dimensional clumps of cells that resembled embryos in the womb.
They then implanted the so-called “embryoid bodies” into immune-deficient mice, where the cells developed further. Next, the maturing cells were grafted on to the bodies of other mice to complete their transformation into skin.
The end result was functional “integumentary tissue”, the deeply layered tissue that allows the skin to work as the body’s largest organ.Lead scientist Dr Takashi Tsuji, from the RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology, said: “Up until now, artificial skin development has been hampered by the fact the skin lacked the 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.