Scientists have developed a breakthrough technique to grow artificial skin - using stem cells taken from the umbilical cord. The new method means major burn patients could benefit from faster skin grafting as the artificial skin can be stored and used when needed. Details of the technique are published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine,
Patients who have suffered severe burns may require skin grafts. At present, this involves the growth of artificial skin using healthy skin from the patients' own bodies. But the researchers note this process can take weeks. Creating this new type of skin using stem cells, which can be stored in tissue banks, means that it can be used instantly when injuries occur.
To create the new technique the scientists used Wharton jelly mesenschymal stem cells from the human umbilical cord. They combined the umbilical cord stem cells with a biomaterial made of fibrin - a protein found in the clotting of blood - and agarose - a polymer usually extracted from seaweed.
The researchers found that when tested in vivo, the combination these components led to the growth of artificial skin and oral mucosa - a mucous membrane lining the inside of the mouth.
These results suggest that human umbilical cord stem cells have the potential to differentiate to oral mucosa and skin epithelial cells in vivo and could be an appropriate novel cell source for the development of human oral mucosa and skin.