Skin with lymph vessels may soon be grown in labs.

Negative wound pressure therapy and a variety of dressings are currently used to treat burn wounds, as well as skin grafts. However, in the future, some patients may be able to actually have replacement skin grown for their burn sites.

According to a January 29 report in Science Translational Medicine, bioengineered skin has the potential to provide many of the things that previous skin grafts lacked: blood vessels, neurons and lymph vessels. The latter – the lymphatic vessels – had previously been an unattainable aspect of skin to engineer, and was a main cause behind fluid build-up in a burn wound.

“When skin is wounded, fluid builds up in the damaged tissue,” Daniela Marino, the study’s lead researcher, explained to HealthDay. “If not efficiently removed, it accumulates to form so-called seromas, which may impair wound closure and skin regeneration.”

Study

Researchers used cells from both human blood and lymph vessels and the put them into a gel that mimicked how the cells would have to behave in skin. These cells then matured into skin grafts, which were tested on rats. After keeping the rats under surveillance post-graft surgeries, the skin worked remarkably well – notably, the bioengineered tissue connected to the rats’ own lymphatic system, and drew excess liquid away from the wound site just as its native skin would.

Prior to this discovery, most bioengineered skin was developed from donated skin tissue that had blood and lymph vessels largely intact. One type of engineered skin, called PriMatrix, was primarily created from the dermal layer of a fetal bovine (fetal cow), according to Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Commentary

While some clinicians and health care professionals are impressed with the discovery, others find it to be less than. One doctor believes that current systems of wound drainage, in tandem with using the patient’s own skin for a graft, still provide better results.

“It may be helpful in burn patients who have had a large portion of their body surface burned and don’t have enough healthy skin to transplant,” Dr. Alfred Culliford, a reconstructive hand surgeon at the Staten Island University Hospital, told HealthDay.

However, some researchers are seeing the possibilities of bioengineered skin as extending beyond the patient and into the realm of animal rights. A 2013 report published in Methods in Molecular Biology suggested using lab-created skin to use for drug development, toxicology tests and more. Things like cosmetic and pharmaceutical testing which was previously conducted on animal skin, could now be done on the lab-created skin.

Beyond burns, bioengineered skin also has many possibilities in the range of wound care. Many clinicians have looked at its development as a great possibility for non-healing and chronic wounds, such as diabetic ulcers that cannot have the pressure and friction completely removed from its location. Other surgeries where engineered skin could be helpful include breast surgeries, hernia removal and facial surgeries.

Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in delivering specialized wound care supplies to patients, delivering to both homes and long-term care facilities.