Scientists Make Lifelike Skin in the Lab

Brian Buntz

April 1, 2016

2 Min Read
Scientists Make Lifelike Skin in the Lab

This artificial skin is capable of sweating and growing hair. 


Qmed Staff 


Artificial Skin

Scientists have been making artificial skin for decades but the functionality of much it has been limited. Now, Japanese scientists have made sophisticated artificial skin using reprogrammed iPS cells that includes hair follicles and sebaceous glands. The researchers then implanted tissue samples in mice and reported that it was able to integrate with surrounding organ systems including nerves and muscle fibers.     


"Up until now, artificial skin development has been hampered by the fact that the skin lacked the important organs, such as hair follicles and exocrine glands, which allow the skin to play its important role in regulation," said Takashi Tsuji of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology. "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."


The research paves the way for the use of functional skin transplants for treating burn patients. 


In the past, scientists had managed to grow skin made of sheets of epithelial cells, but that type of artificial skin did not have the functionality needed to enable it to function as normal tissue. 


The scientists took cells from gums and chemically transformed them into stem-cell-like iPS cells. From there, the cells evolved in a so-called embryoid body--a three-dimensional clump of cells. The resulting tissue was capable of differentiating into different kinds of tissue and was capable of forming integumentary tissue linking the outer and inner skin. The artificial skin also formed connections with nerves and muscle tissues. 


The researchers ascribe their success to the use of Wnt10b, a signaling molecule, that helped spur the development of hair follicles, thus making the engineered tissue more like natural skin. 


Last year, a separate group of Japenese researchers developed a bandage-like artificial skin designed to work as a temporary treatment for treating severe burns as a bridge before grafting. That advance was based on a the use of a collagen membrane scaffold. The skin was developed at  Saga University and the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, according to  The Japan Times. 

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to our daily e-newsletter.

Sign up for the QMED & MD+DI Daily newsletter.

You May Also Like