In Brief
A new breakthrough in regenerative science could pave the way for lab-grown organs and usher in a new era in the development of artificial skin.

Bio-Engineered Skin

You can now, apparently, add skin to the things you grow in a lab. This may sound rather ‘meh,’ but we can do a lot more than just a clump of cells. Previously, scientists have successfully been able to create the outer layer, or the epidermis. Now, we can actually create an entire organ—including its layer of fatty tissue, hair follicles, glands, and nerves.

What a time to be alive.

The team, led by Dr. Takashi Tsuji of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, used stem cells to create the skin’s layers, which they have successfully transplanted onto a mouse. The experiment’s success was based on the mouse being able to grow hair and sweat through the bio-engineered skin. 

Their research was published in Science Advances.

“Up until now, artificial skin development has been hampered by the fact that the skin lacked the important organs, such as hair follicles and glands, which allow the skin to play its important role in regulation,” Tsuji notes in the press release. “With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue.”

Image Credit: RIKEN

Lab Grown Organs

Note that our skin happens to be the body’s largest organ, and this development signifies that we are getting closer and closer to the ultimate goal of being able to recreate internal organs in a lab for transplantation.

The method of producing lab-grown tissue could finally offer a better alternative to animal testing. In addition, this is a significant leap towards finding more effective regenerative therapies for burn patients or those suffering from alopecia.

Current experiments were conducted on mice, but the team is optimistic that the same results will be delivered once the procedure is done on humans.  

This is a study that could not only cut the waiting time for compatible transplant donors (should it one day become the basis for the creation of lab-grown organs), it could also make it more accessible and affordable for those who need it.