Stretching Skin for Grafts
Skin grafts are required for conditions such as burns, infections, wounds and some cancers.
The current gold standard for skin grafts is to harvest usable skin from another part of a patient’s body. But this isn’t always possible, especially in cases of extensive burns.
Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have built a computer-controlled system that enables us to grow skin in the laboratory, with the goal of creating large amounts of skin for reconstructive surgery. We have used human foreskin for this procedure because it is much more elastic than tissue in other parts of the body.
In our experiments, foreskin was expanded incrementally in the computerized bioreactor system over a six-day period so that it grew to twice its original size. This expanded skin contained within it a number of viable, proliferating cells. And, because the stretched skin contained living cells, it is believed it could play a contributing role in healing, in the same way that a traditional skin graft does.
It's possible that this technique will one day enable surgeons to be able to remove a small skin biopsy, expand it in the laboratory and use the new skin in various reconstructive procedures.