New artificial skin transplant on mouse is functioning as real skin.
Researchers in Japan have successfully transplanted artificial skin onto a mouse, and the fake skin is doing everything real skin does, sweat, secrete protective oils and grow hair, according to the Washington Post.
Scientists from the RIKEN Center of Developmental Biology in Japan were able to produce a fully functional artificial skin by using stem cells from the gums of mice. After transplanting the skin on a mouse with its immune system suppressed, the new skin connected with surrounding nerve and muscle tissue.
Scientists are excited about the possibilities for skin grafting, a process that currently takes skin from other parts of the body, and they believe this new technique, although years away, may revolutionize the treatment of burn victim and other skin graft recipients. The technique may even one day be available as a treatment for baldness.
The skin, the body’s largest organ, not only provides a protective coating for the rest of the body’s internal workings, but functions as a thermostat, produces vitamins and lubricants for the body’s use, and serves as a protection against infections.
In most cases, even grafted skin from another part of the recipient’s own body is not able to continue to perform at the same level as the original skin. Newly grafted skin is not able to regulate temperatures well, and is unable to lubricate itself, causing most grafts to be frequently oiled. Also, grafted skin does not connect with the surrounding muscle and never cells.
The researchers admit the possibility of using this new technique on humans is very far down the road, if indeed it can be perfected. The findings did not show whether the artificial skin could be transplanted onto a recipient without suppressing the immune system, and the whole process may be too labor intensive to be applied to human transplants.
Still, the concept has scientists looking forward to new research in this field, and lead author Takashi Tsuji said in a statement released to the press, “We are coming ever closer to the dream of being able to recreate actual organs in the lab for transplantation.”