Human Skin Grown on Lab Mice to Cure Skin Diseases
Posted on October 17, 2011
Scientists at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid are conducting research to study how to make use of the potential for auto regeneration of stem skills from skin. The researchers want to be able to create, in the laboratory, a patient's entire cutaneous surface using a combination of biological engineering and tissue engineering techniques. The researchers have replaced part of the skin of mice with patches of human skin.
Skin is a tissue that naturally renews itself throughout our lives thanks to the existence of epidermic stem cells. Marcela del Río, of UC3M's Bioengineering, says, ""We have found that this regenerative potential can be preserved in vitro (in the laboratory) if the cells are joined and become part of generated skin using tissue bioengineering techniques. The regenerative capacity of epidermic stem cells in these conditions is overwhelming, and it leads to the possibility of using these cells as a target for even more complex protocols, such as gene therapy."
The researchers isolated stem cells from patients suffering from Netherton syndrome, a genetic illness characterized by an excessive peeling of the skin. These patients have a high neonatal mortality rate of between 10 and 15 percent. The molecular basis of this pathology lies in a mutation of a single gene, known as SPINK-5. The SPINK-5 gene inhibits the production of a protein that controls the process of skin shedding. The results, recently published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, were that the human skin that was regenerated in the lab mice showed a completely normal peeling process, so that epidermic structure and function were reestablished.
Marcela del Río says, "What we did in this case - explains Marcela del Río - was to transfer a normal SPINK-5 gene to a patient's stem cells and later use these cells to generate skin that could be transplanted to experimental models, such as mice. These pre-clinical studies could be transferred to clinical practice in the medium term, and could become a therapeutic strategy for patients who might otherwise have no treatment available to them."