In some good news for burn victims and sufferers of other skin-related conditions, replacement skin may soon be easily available as scientists have engineered artificial skin by mixing biomaterials.
Researchers from the University of Toronto are growing centimetres of artificial skin at a time, a huge step-up from previous techniques which could grow just microns at a time, the Daily Mail reported.
The researchers are able to grow sheets of skin by placing individual cells into a gel-like sheet, and they can even be grown into specific shapes – such as letters.
“There’s a lot of interest in soft materials, particularly biomaterials, but until now no one has demonstrated a simple and scalable one-step process to go from microns to centimetres,” Axel Guenther, associate professor in the University, was quoted by the paper as saying. The study is published in the journal Advanced Materials.
To perfect the technique biomaterials were mixed, causing a chemical reaction that forms a ‘mosaic hydrogel’ – a sheet-like substance compatible with the growth of cells into living tissues, into which different types of cells can be seeded in very precise and controlled placements.
This is unlike more typical methods, for instance scaffolding, where cells are seeded onto an artificial structure capable of supporting three-dimensional tissue formation.
In this process, cells are planted onto the mosaic hydrogel sheets as they are being created – generating the perfect conditions for cells to grow.
The placement of the cells is so precise that scientists can spell words and can precisely mimic the natural placement of cells in living tissues.
“In this case, when we put the cells in the right places we create cellular organisation quite naturally,” Lian Leng lead author of the study said.