Background: The gold standard in burn wound treatment is autologous split thickness skin grafting. Patients with major burns often undergo repeat rounds of skin grafting with lengthy hospital stays, multiple surgeries, high treatment costs and long recovery times. Full thickness skin grown in the laboratory using a patient’s own cells could reduce the time required to provide patients with permanent, complete wound coverage. We have developed a novel method for growing full thickness human skin that requires minimal manipulation and has the capability to scale up to produce large human skin grafts for permanent, complete wound coverage.
Results: Epidermal stratification, crucial for barrier function of skin, is usually achieved in the laboratory by growing skin at an air-liquid interface (ALI). We show here that epidermal stratification can be achieved by growing skin at a gas permeable interface (GPI), provided by a gas permeable silicone membrane. Based on this technology we have developed a device capable of producing full thickness skin grafts at least 100cm2 in size. Strength and handling of the grafts is improved by the use of a synthetic, biodegradable, biocompatible scaffold. Patient’s own cells are used to make the full thickness skin grafts and we show that we can grow enough skin cells to achieve complete wound coverage in 28 days. A phase I clinical study is currently being planned, to take place here in New Zealand.
Conclusions: Our novel technology changes the classic, labour intensive method for skin growth into a method which requires minimal manipulation, has reduced contamination risk, produces consistent epidermis and can be scaled in a timely fashion to clinically useful sizes. The final product will provide permanent, complete wound coverage.