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Reconstructed human skin produced in vitro and grafted on athymic mice

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Background. The best alternative to a split-thickness graft for the wound coverage of patients with extensive burns should be in vitro reconstructed autologous skin made of both dermis and epidermis and devoid of exogenous extracellular matrix proteins and synthetic material. We have designed such a reconstructed human skin (rHS) and present here its first in vivo grafting on athymic mice.

Methods. The rHS was made by culturing newborn or adult keratinocytes on superimposed fibrous sheets obtained after culturing human fibroblasts with ascorbic acid. Ten days after keratinocyte seeding, reconstructed skins were either cultured at the air-liquid interface or grafted on athymic mice. We present the macroscopic, histologic, and phenotypic properties of such tissues in vitro and in vivo after grafting on nude mice.

Results. After maturation in vitro, the reconstructed skin exhibited a well-developed human epidermis that expressed differentiated markers and basement membrane proteins. Four days after grafting, a complete take of all grafts was obtained. Histological analysis revealed that the newly generated epidermis of newborn rHS was thicker than that of adult rHS after 4 days but similar 21 days after grafting. The basement membrane components (bullous pemphigoid antigens, laminin, and type IV and VII collagens) were detected at the dermo-epidermal junction, showing a continuous line 4 days after grafting. Ultrastructural studies revealed that the basement membrane was continuous and well organized 21 days after transplantation. The macroscopic aspect of the reconstructed skin revealed a resistant, supple, and elastic tissue. Elastin staining and elastic fibers were detected as a complex network in the rHS that contributes to the good elasticity of this new reconstructed tissue.

Conclusions. This new rHS model gives supple and easy to handle skins while demonstrating an adequate wound healing on mice. These results are promising for the development of this skin substitute for permanent coverage of burn wounds.

Transplantation, Vol. 73 (11), 1751-1757 (2002)
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