This ultra-fine, 3-dimensional scaffold, which is made from specially developed polymers, looks similar to tissue paper but has fibres 100 times finer. Before it is placed over a wound, the patient’s skin cells (obtained via a biopsy (1)) are introduced and attach themselves to the scaffold, multiplying until they eventually grow over it. When placed over the wound, the scaffold dissolves harmlessly over 6 to 8 weeks, leaving the patient’s skin cells behind.
This new approach to skin reconstruction has been developed by a team of chemists, materials scientists and tissue engineers at the University of Sheffield, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It is designed primarily for cases involving extensive burns where surgeons are unable to take enough skin grafts from elsewhere on the body to cover the damaged areas. Currently, bovine collagen (2) or skin from human donors is used in these cases, but these approaches have potential health and rejection risks.
“Simplicity is the key,” says Professor Tony Ryan, who is leading the team. “Previous attempts to find better ways of encouraging skin cell growth have used chemical additives and other elaborate techniques to produce scaffolds, but their success has been limited. We’ve found that skin cells are actually very ‘smart’ – it’s in their DNA to sort themselves into the right arrangement. They just need a comparatively uncomplicated scaffold (and each other) to help them grow in a safe, natural way.”
The polymers used in the scaffold are biodegradable materials already approved for medical applications. Because the team has recognised that skin cells are ‘smart’ and the scaffold can therefore be ‘dumb’ (i.e. not overly sophisticated), simple polymers can be used.
The process for making the scaffolds is based on the well-known technique of electrospinning (3). However, the team has made a key advance by developing a new method of making, from the same biodegradable polymers, aligned-fibre ‘mats’ of potential use in promoting nerve or tendon growth. This method is currently being patented.
The next step in the research is to develop the skin reconstruction technology for clinical use, hopefully in the next few years. The technology also offers possibilities for testing the toxicity of cosmetic and similar products, using materials grown in the laboratory that closely resemble natural skin.
“Ultimately, we can envisage treatment of burns victims and the undertaking of reconstructive surgery using the scaffold and the patient’s own skin to produce bespoke skin for that patient,” says Professor Ryan. “As an accident-prone mountain biker, I find that prospect very attractive!”
1- A biopsy is the removal of a sample of tissue from a living person.
2- Bovine collagen is a fibrous protein found in cow’s skin.
3- Electrospinning is a technique for producing polymer fibres down to nano-scale and involves use of an electrostatic field.
Natasha Richardson | alfa
Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine