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Friday, 20 November 2009 21:00

Burned skin healed with human embryonic stem cells

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A French study has shown that human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can be potentially used to produce skin grafts for people with large, serious burns.


The summary of the study is published in the November 20, 2009 issue of the journal The Lancet (volume 374, issue 9703, pages 1745-1753; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61496-3Cite).

The article’s title is “Human embryonic stem-cell derivatives for full reconstruction of the pluristratified epidermis: a preclinical study.

Its authors are: Hind Guenou, Xavier Nissan, Fernando Larcher, Jessica Feteira, Gilles Lemaitre, Manoubia Saidani, Marcela Del Rio, Christine C Barrault, François-Xavier Bernard, Marc Peschanski, Christine Baldeschi, and Gilles Waksman.

Dr. Hind Guenou, one of the authors, is from the Institute for Stem Cell Therapy and Exploration of Monogenic Diseases, Evry Cedex, France.

The authors state that traditional grafting methods have limitations. For instance, in one technque the skin cells of a burn patient, what is called keratinocytes, is grown in a laboratory setting and used to replace the damaged burned skin.

However, it takes approximately three weeks to grow these cells and, during this time, the patient runs the risk of infection and dehydration.

In other technique, cells from a dead donor can be used. However, this technique has only a limited number of donors, so its use is nominal at best.

Page two discusses their new technique.




In their new technique, the French scientists used human embryonic stem cells to build a layer of outer skin (the epidermis) over a forty day period.

The French collaborators were successfully able to grow cells that simulated the physical characteristics of epidermis.

The authors found, as reported in the abstract to their paper: “From hESCs, we generated a homogeneous population of cells that showed phenotypic characteristics of basal keratinocytes.”

And, once grafted onto the damaged skin of laboratory mice, the artificially made skin had a structure that was “consistent” with human skin.

That is: “After seeding on an artificial matrix, keratinocytes derived from hESCs (K-hESCs) formed a pluristratified epidermis.”

And, “12 weeks after grafting onto five immunodeficient mice, epidermis derived from K-hESCs had a structure consistent with that of mature human skin.”

The authors concluded, “hESCs can be differentiated into basal keratinocytes that are fully functional—ie, able to construct a pluristratified epidermis. This resource could be developed to provide temporary skin substitutes for patients awaiting autologous grafts.”

They stated, "We have shown that keratinocytes can be derived from [human embryonic stem cells]. Growing human epidermis from [human embryonic stem cells] could have clinical relevance as an unlimited resource for temporary skin replacement in patients with large burns awaiting" grafts from their own newly grown cells.”

A response from Holger Schlüter and Pritinder Kaur, both from the Epithelial Stem Cell Biology Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia, is stated in the accompanied article “Bioengineered human skin from embryonic stem cells" in The Lancet.

They say that this French research is very important in the advancement of regenerative skin cells with the use of stem cells.

From the November 19, 2009 WebMD article “Stem Cells May Be Used as Skin Grafts,” it is stated that the study "… ‘takes research into regenerative skin stem cells to the next level’ and ‘suggests’ that cells made from human embryonic stem cells could be transplanted onto burn patients who are awaiting the growth of their own cells.”

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