Published on June 14, 2010 at 11:34 PM
Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Australian researchers are on the road to the discovery of a new form of artificial human skin that could be a boon to burn victims and other patients needing skin grafts. At present the available skin grafts are only 1 millimeter thick and serve only to replace the top epidermis layer.
This new skin is thicker (1.5 centimeter) and can replace the layer below the epidermis called the dermis. Dermis normally aids in functions like sweating, temperature control and responds to touch. Professor Peter Maitz, one of the researchers said, “After any skin trauma this should be the way skin is reconstructed, because we will be able to achieve normal function, normal feeling and look of skin.” His team is working on the skin graft at a laboratory at Sydney's Concord Hospital and he says it could be available for regular use in another decade. Dr Zhe Li who leads the research said that they had already grown thicker skin in the laboratory and tried it on animals. This graft is made of synthetic material that mimics the dermis and is seeded with the cells from the patient’s own bone marrow Dr. Li said.
Prof Maitz said, “In Australia, someone with a full-thickness burn to up to 80 per cent of their body surface area has every prospect of surviving the injury…However their quality of life remains questionable as we're unable, at present, to replace the burned skin with normal skin…We're committed to ensuring the pain of survival is worth it, by developing a living skin equivalent.”
A new collaboration between the University of Sydney and Concord Hospital Burns Unit will be officially launched on Tuesday aiming to support the ongoing research into the new synthetic skin, and also research and education in burns medicine and reconstructive surgery.