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Researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University have developed a new method to grow donor skin that can be used for skin grafting. The traditional approach of harvesting skin from the patient’s own body can be challenging for large wounds, leading to the development of artificial skin substitutes. However, these substitutes are not as effective as autologous skin grafts, as they are limited to shallow wounds and have a low engraftment rate. To address this issue, the researchers introduced a mutation into mouse fetuses, making them unable to grow mature epidermis, and injected them with mouse stem cells to generate skin grafts that could be successfully engrafted onto mature mice.

The results of the study were surprising, as the chimeric mice born from the mutated embryos were covered with large patches of skin derived from the injected cells. These patches of skin survived for up to 3 months when grafted onto mature mice and even grew fur. Additionally, injecting the mutated mouse embryos with human skin cells also produced skin grafts that mimicked the structure and organization of mature epidermis. This suggests that semi-autologous skin grafts containing hair follicles and other skin appendages can be generated in vivo and successfully engrafted in patients.

The researchers plan to scale up the process to larger animals with longer gestation periods to generate larger human skin grafts. By generating only skin tissue, they aim to address ethical concerns surrounding the use of human-animal chimeras to produce organs for medical use. This new approach could revolutionize the field of skin grafting by providing a reliable source of donor skin that includes important features like hair follicles and sweat glands, which are essential for normal skin function. This could greatly improve the success rate of skin graft generation for patients with severe skin wounds.

The gold standard for treating burn wounds is autologous skin grafting, in which skin sheets containing both epidermis and dermis are transferred from other parts of the patient’s body to cover the wounded area. However, for large wounds, it can be difficult to harvest enough skin from limited donor sites. Split-thickness grafts, which contain mostly epidermis and some dermis, can be used to cover larger areas, but they lack features like hair and sweat glands and are more prone to shrinkage and scarring. Artificial skin substitutes have been developed as alternatives, but they have limitations compared to autologous skin grafts.

The development of this new method for growing donor skin could potentially revolutionize the field of skin grafting by providing a reliable source of donor skin that includes essential features like hair follicles and sweat glands. This innovative approach could help improve the success rate of skin graft generation for patients with severe skin wounds, offering a promising new treatment option for those in need. Further research and development are needed to scale up the process and address ethical concerns, but the potential benefits of this new method are significant and could have a lasting impact on the field of regenerative medicine.

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