Artificial skin should help children with burns

Researchers are developing a carrier matrix that facilitates skin cell growth in the laboratory

Close-up of human skin (field skin) © XenonR / CC BY-SA 2.0
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Zurich researchers have developed an artificial skin that burn victims should be transplanted. In animal experiments, they have so far achieved promising results, so the doctors. The move from the lab to the patient is imminent, as next year the researchers will begin clinical trials with the "lab skin". Their breakthrough had led to the development of a special carrier substance, which significantly facilitates the cultivation of skin-like cells in the laboratory. For one of the problems in skin care was the low growth rate - only about a square centimeter per day - been.

The Christmas tree can be dangerous: Although real candles are cozy and festive, yet the open flame often brings dangers. Therefore, the German Society for Pediatric Surgery (DGKCH) warns about the "day of the burned child": "Winter time is combustion time". Because firecrackers, candle flames, fires and hot drinks are used mainly in the cold season. Although accidents resulting in burns can be avoided, says Karin Rothe, director of the Department of Pediatric Surgery at the Berlin Charité, there are still burn injuries with children from year to year. In extreme cases, only skin grafts can save the lives of seriously injured children.

Lifetime operations necessary

"Once children have burned, they usually have a long ordeal, " says Rothe. Because burnt skin scarred and does not grow with the child. Although epidermal grafts have often saved the lives of critically injured people, they have required more than 70 surgeries well into adulthood. So far doctors have achieved the best results in burn-injured patients, for example, when healthy patient's own full skin was transplanted from the soles of the feet. Because this skin is very rarely overshooting scars. However, it is naturally limited and available for smaller areas. What is missing is a full-skin replacement bred in the lab that is as well tolerated as your own skin.

If the experts could breed any skin, there would always be enough skin available for wound cover. Until then, however, skin must be bred in laborious mini-work in the Petri dish and then transplanted. "For each square centimeter of burnt skin we need about a day, " says Clemens Schiestl, head of the Center for burnt children at the Children's Hospital Zurich. But now the Swiss researchers have succeeded in breeding and transplanting cells of the lower and upper skin in a biological structure that is very close to the structure of the skin. This innovation could improve the quality of life for thousands of patients in the future.

Carrier matrix brings breakthrough

For 20 years, researchers at the Children's Hospital Z rich have been looking for ways to improve the so-called "laboratory skin". "The breakthrough to the real development of skin grafts from the laboratory was finally achieved with the development of a carrier substance." This alone took five years, said Schiestl. The matrix now makes it possible to grow and transplant cells of the lower and upper skins, resulting in a stable and well-built skin. display

Together with scientists from Berlin and Amsterdam, the Swiss experts have planned elaborate studies, which are being funded by the EU with six million euros. "In the coming year, we can finally take the important step out of the lab to the hospital bed and soon relieve the suffering of many patients, " Schiestl says. In 2013, the novel laboratory skin will be launched in Zurich for burnt children for the first time. This has worked very well in animal experiments so far, says the doctor and explains: "We hope that we will soon be able to use this lifesaving and elastic skin as standard and thus spare the children such a long ordeal can.

(German Society for Pediatric Surgery, 12.12.2012 - KBE)