New skin from fetal cells great success in children with burns

Swiss researchers have used skin constructed from fetal skin cells to treat eight children with burns.

Autologous skin grafting, where a patch of skin is surgically removed from one area of the body and transplanted to another one, is the gold standard for treatment of deep second and third degree burns.

However, in order to facilitate this two-step surgical procedure, bioengineered skin products are also needed.

To meet this need, Patrick Hohlfeld of the University Hospital of Lausanne, and his colleagues developed a bank of fetal skin cells from one, small donation of fetal skin, to improve healing of such intense burns.

This tiny 4x2cm scrap enabled the preparation of several million three-dimensional skin constructs, 9x12 cm, on native horse collagen.

The initial donation came from a woman whose pregnancy was terminated at 14-weeks.

She gave written informed consent for doctors to take a skin biopsy from her fetus.

The authors report that several million skin constructs (9x12 cm) suitable for therapeutic use, could be produced from the single organ donation.

Eight children suffering from burns, who were were candidates for traditional skin grafting, were recruited onto the study.

The researchers then placed fetal skin cell constructs on the children’s lesions and bandaged them.

Their dressings were then changed every 3 - 4 days for 3 weeks in an outpatient setting.

By just over 2 weeks, the researchers found that all the children had their wounds closed and no child needed traditional grafting, because the fetal constructs alone had closed their wounds.

There was no thickening or tightening of new skin seen.

Professor Hohlfeld says they have demonstrated that fetal skin is a substitute for biological skin and can provide burned patients with a very high quality of skin in a short time, with no additional grafting techniques.

He says this technique provided complete treatment without auto-grafting, showing that fetal skin cells might be used to treat burns and eventually acute and chronic wounds of other types.

Hohlfeld says the therapeutic effects of this simple technique, along with the simplicity in application, suggests fetal skin cells could have great potential in tissue engineering.

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