Japanese researchers create fully functioning skin in lab

A team of Japanese researchers has claimed to have grown a fully functional skin, complete with sweat glands and hair follicles, in a lab for the first time till date. Presently, there are only a few treatments for various types of hair loss or alopecia which occurs due to destruction of hair follicles in the skin. But, the new lab-grown skin has given new hope to those who are in search of a new, more effective treatment for hair loss.

The newly created skin is complete with a layer of fatty tissue as well as the dermis, where hair follicles and sweat glands develop.

Kobe-based Riken Centre for Developmental Biology’s Dr. Takashi Tsuji, who led the research, said, “With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue. Our study contributes to the development of bioengineering technologies that will enable future regenerative therapies for patients with burns, scars, and alopecia.”

To develop the skin in lab, the researchers took cells from mouse gums and transformed them into stem cells using certain chemicals. The stem cells were then transplanted into another mouse.

Within a few days, the stem cells began turning into skin tissue. The researchers then removed the skin and implanted it into the original mice. The mice were able to grow hair, and sweat through the new skin. The organ bonded well with the original skin and creation of new tissues started.

A report published in the Vocativ informed, “In a bioengineering breakthrough, scientists have managed to create artificial human skin in the laboratory that contains all three natural skin layers, a handful of the usual glands and even hair follicles. The findings, published in Science Advances, bring us one step closer to reliably regenerating realistic human skin that has been lost to severe burns and skin diseases.”

“Artificial skin development has been hampered by the fact that the skin lacked the important organs, such as hair follicles,” said coauthor Takashi Tsuji of the RIKEN Center in Japan, in a press statement. “With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue.”

“Japanese researchers have a good news for burn victims. They have successfully grown complex skin tissue – complete with hair follicles and oil-producing sebaceous glands – in the laboratory, thereby opening a path to creating functional skin transplants for burn and other patients who require new skin. The scientists were then able to implant these three-dimensional tissues into living mice, and the tissues formed proper connections with other organ systems such as nerves and muscle fibres. Stem-cell treatment has always been a boon for burn victims,” according to a news report published by TheHealthSite.

‘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,Â’ said lead researchers Takashi Tsuji from RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology in Kobe. To perform the work, published in Science Advances, the researchers took cells from mouse gums and used chemicals to transform them into stem cell-like induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) cells.

According to a report in NZ Herald by Sarah Knapton, “Fully functioning skin, complete with sweat glands and hair follicles, has been grown in a lab for the first time, giving new hope for the treatment of hair loss. Currently, there are few treatments for many types of hair loss, or alopecia, which occurs when hair follicles are destroyed in the skin.”

Although scientists have previously created the outer layer of skin – the epidermis – in a lab they have never managed to create the full organ which includes a layer of fatty tissue, and the dermis, where hair follicles and sweat glands are formed.

Now a team in Japan has shown it is possible to grow all three layers from stem cells. The researchers took cells from mouse gums and used chemicals to transform them into stem cells which were then turned into a clump of cells known as an “embroyid body”. They were then transplanted into another mouse and within just a few days they started to turn into skin tissue.

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