December 9, 2008
Artificial Skin Produced In The Lab
A fully automated process is set to improve the production of artificial tissue: medical scientists can perform transplants with skin produced in the laboratory. This tissue is also suitable for testing chemicals at a low cost without requiring animal experiments.
Some patients wish they had a second skin "“ for instance because their own skin has been burnt in a severe accident. But transplanting skin is a painstaking task, and a transplant that has to cover large areas often requires several operations. Medical scientists have therefore been trying for a long time to grow artificial tissue. This "artificial skin" would allow them to treat these patients better and faster.
First of all, a biopsy "“ that is, a sample of human tissue "“ is checked for sterility. A gripper arm then transports the biopsy into the automated device where the individual steps are performed: The machine cuts the biopsy into small pieces, isolates the different cell types, stimulates their growth, and mixes the skin cells with collagen. A three-dimensional reconstruction of the different skin layers is produced with the aid of a special gel matrix "“ and the skin is ready. In the final step, the machine packages the cells for shipment. Alternatively, the tissue can be cryopreserved "“ that is, deep-frozen and stored for later use. "It was important for us that the entire mechanical process is divided into separate modules," says Mertsching. "This enables us to replace or modify individual modules, depending what is needed for the production of different tissue types." The method opens up almost unlimited new possibilities for the medical scientists. One of their upcoming projects is to produce intestinal tissue for resorption tests.
Image Caption: Cross-section through artificial skin (left) compared to section through human skin (right). Both the natural and the artificial skin are made up of three layers. Ã© Fraunhofer IGB
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