We're now on the way to growing fully functional skin, as researchers form layered skin tissue including hair follicles and even sweat glands
We can already grow skin to some extent in the lab, but it doesn't contain all of the components necessary for it to function properly; it helps burn victims for example, but doesn't completely restore function to normal. If we could truly grow, fresh new skin for transplantation then we'd be able to repair skin injuries - or perhaps even rejuvenate aging skin too.
Mirroring skin architecture
Using cells from mice gums, researchers from Japan produced induced pluripotent stem cells. This converts cells into a kind of blank slate, enabling them to start again with another tissue type. They were then able to convert these cells into multi-layered skin tissue, full of the complexity necessary for skin function. Many people tend to think of skin aging as purely cosmetic, but healthy skin plays an important role things like temperature regulation and keeping out pathogens. Old skin isn't as good at these things as youthful, elastic skin is.
"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. With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue.We are coming ever closer to the dream of being able to recreate actual organs in the lab for transplantation."
When this new skin was transplanted onto a mouse with a lowered immune system it even sprouted hair as it integrated. This is extremely hopeful stuff, and replicating the process with human skin could provide vastly improved treatment for a number of conditions. It could also enable better drug testing, as skin could be grown from personalised samples and tested accordingly.
"It's recapitulating normal skin architecture. So rather than having isolated bits of skin... here we've actually got a whole box of stuff"
Read more at BBC News