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Skin-like Tissue Developed from Stem Cells

Posted: July 30, 2009

Scientists at Tufts University in Massachusetts have discovered how to harness the basis of stem cells that create complex skin tissue, which has the potential to affect new treatments for skin diseases and issues.

Dental and tissue engineering researchers at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts have harnessed the pluripotency of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) to generate complex, multilayer tissues that mimic human skin and the oral mucosa, the moist tissue that lines the inside of the mouth.

“For the first time, we have established that a single source of hESC can provide the multiple cell types needed to interact within a three-dimensional tissue model to generate complex, multilayer tissues. We are a step closer to a practical therapy to help with diseases of the skin and mouth,” said Jonathan Garlick, DDS, PhD, professor of oral and maxillofacial pathology at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and a member of the cell, molecular and developmental biology program faculty at the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts.

“Researchers have been seeking methods to grow skin-like tissues outside of the body using new sources of stem cells such as hESC, with the goal of advancing regenerative medicine as a new therapy to replace or repair damaged or diseased tissue. Little is known about how hESC can be developed into the multilayer tissues similar to those that line the gums, cheeks, lips, and other areas in the mouth. We used in vitro tissue engineering techniques to produce skin-like tissues that mimic the lining tissues found in the oral cavity,” said Garlick.

Using a combination of chemical nutrients and specialized surfaces for cell attachment, an hES cell line (H9) was directed to form two distinct specialized cell populations. The first population forms the surface layer—ectodermal, the precursor to epithelial tissue—while the second is found beneath the surface layer—mesenchymal.