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Home » Biology Homework Help » Biotechnology » Artificial Skin
Artificial Skin
The skin produced in vitro is in fact only the epidermis portion of skin; when the epidermis is applied to the burnt area, it leads to the regeneration of dermis (the remaining parts of skin) underneath. But improvements in the techniques have permitted the reconstitution of virtually complete skin (both epidermis and dermis), called living skin equivalent (LSE); this technology employs a collagen matrix as a support for growth of the tissue. The skin explants used for obtaining artificial skin may be either obtained from the patient concerned or from the foreskin (loose skin from the tip of penis) of newborn babies. Skin cells of new-borns grow more vigorously than adult skin; the use of a synthetic polymer called PGA allows the newborn skin to grow without scars. Artificial skin from newborn skin explants is used to cover the wound till the patient’s skin is cultured and artificial skin is obtained for grafting.

The production of artificial skin, in simple terms, is as follows and is essentially cell and not organ culture. The bulk (Ca 90%) of epidermis is constituted by cells called keratinocytes which produce the dead cells (corneocytes) making up the outermost cornified layers of skin. The keratinocytes are dissociated by treating the skin explant with trypsin. These cells are cultured in vessels the bottom of which is covered with irradiated 3T3 fibroblast cell line; this is because certain products from fibroblast cells facilitate the proliferation of keratinocytes. Keratinocytes grow to form colonies, which are again dissociated into single cells and cultured in the same manner. The process is repeated till a confluent sheet of pure epithelium is formed; this sheet is detached from the culture vessels, cleaned and used for grafting. The explant for preparing artificial skin for the graft must come from the patient himself to avoid rejection. A 3 cm2 skin explant can yield about 1.7 m2 artificial skin in 3-4 weeks representing a 5000-fold increase. In about 5 years after grafting of the artificial skin, all the essential components of skin are regenerated. Artificial skin grafts have been used to successfully repair several type of skin defects, including chronic skin ulcers.

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