Researchers in the United Kingdom are hailing the first-ever artificial living skin graft. This alternative to painful skin grafts could revolutionize the treatment of burn victims and skin-damaged patients. Further, larger clinical studies hope to generate data that will enable rapid progress to pivotal trials and approval to market.
Described as the 'holy grail' of wound healing, the skin (named ICX-SKN) is the brainchild of scientists at Cambridge-based biotechnology firm Intercytex. Sections of skin, the same thickness as that on the body, are grown in square trays in the lab. Each tray contains millions of fibroblasts, the cells responsible for the production of collagen—the protein that gives skin its strength and elasticity. Using a series of chemicals, the fibroblasts—obtained from an anonymous donor—are coaxed into multiplying and producing collagen. After 6 or 7 weeks, the cells and collagen knit together to form a section of skin-like material. The matrix is implanted into a wound, where it integrates with the patient’s own skin, closing the wound. It is thought the artificial skin could be on the market in as little as 3 years, with surgeons simply reaching into the fridge to retrieve pre-prepared skin as needed.
Dr Phil Stephens, an expert in cell biology at Cardiff University, said: "Future studies are needed to establish whether this system is substantially better then those already on the market. But this skin replacement system has the potential to dramatically reduce scarring and help heal chronic wounds in aged patients to give them a better quality of life."
Illustration: ICX-SKN is produced from fibrin gel, a blood clotting protein, and fibroblast cells, found in human skin. --Intercytex.
Intercytex Press Release(06/26/07)
Daily Mail (06/26/07)
ABC News (06/26/07)
BBC News (06/26/07)
Manchester Evening News (06/26/07)
Cosmetics Design Europe (06/26/07)
New Kerala (06/28/07)
Cambridge News (06/28/07)