Although our skin is one of the organs with the greatest recovery abilities, it has been almost impossible to replicate this precious tissue in the lab, but not anymore. Japanese scientists were able to develop and grow dermal tissue that behaves just like normal skin; the team performed the development of the organ and managed to test it successfully on mice.

This new artificial skin is expected to bring a new degree of relief to scarring, skin diseases and burn victims. But one of the unforeseen advantages of the skin developed by the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology is that it is able to grow hair, as it was published in the journal Science Advances.

Photo credit: Takashi Tsuji, RIKEN / Vocativ
Japanese scientists were able to develop and grow dermal tissue that behaves just like normal skin. Photo credit: Takashi Tsuji, RIKEN / Vocativ

The tissue was developed by using stem cells, which are able to be worked upon until they can replicate any cell located within our organism. The cells were originally taken from the cells of lab mice and they were reprogrammed to become embryonic stem cells.

How does it differ from other skin substitutes or grafted skin?

Besides being able to have hair follicles, secrete oil and produce sweat, the skin developed by RIKEN has the three characteristic layers of the human skin. The experiment allows for further development in the areas of regenerative therapy and it displays possibilities of creating fully functional organs for clinical treatment.

But there is still some resistance on whether to test the artificial skin on humans. The theory is that human skin substitutes should be created with human cells. The scientists need to figure out how to develop and obtain the same results by using human stem cells instead of mice’s.

The team predicts that they still have a long way to go in creating artificial human skin, but they are aiming toward generating organs in a laboratory environment in order to assist patients that may need a transplant, so they do not have to rely on a donor. But yet, recreating skin is a big step in this area of research as it is the largest organ in the body, able to regulate temperature and protect inner and outer organs from the environment and possible infection. Regular grafted skin cannot connect to muscles, it is not able to sweat, and subsequently, it cannot regulate temperature effectively.

As of now, the most widely-discussed application of the artificial skin developed by RIKEN is to be used as a test surface for cosmetics. This will reduce the test procedures that are still made on animals by many cosmetics companies. But one of the most interesting uses of the RIKEN artificial skin is to treat baldness, as 9 out of 10 males and 5 out of 10 women suffer from a certain degree of baldness in some point of their lives. It is a matter of time until cosmetic applications of RIKEN skin become available to the public to treat ailments such as baldness and hypohydrosis.

Source: Science Advances