Stem Cells from the Umbilical Cord Used to Grow Artificial Skin

Nov 22, 2013 04:04 PM EST

For the first time ever, researchers have successfully grown artificial skin from the stem cells of an umbilical cord.

Published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, the study could have a wide range of effects, including helping to speed the recovery of burn victims.

Currently, burn patients have to wait weeks in order for artificial skin to be grown using their own healthy skin. According to the researchers, the discovery could lead to the storage of skin in tissue banks that could then be made available upon demand.

"Creating this new type of skin using stem cells, which can be stored in tissue banks, means that it can be used instantly when injuries are caused, and which would bring the application of artificial skin forward many weeks," Antonio Campos, professor of histology at the University of Granada and one of the authors of this study, said in a statement.

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To grow the artificial skin, the researchers used a biomaterial made of fibrin, a protein involved in blood clotting, and agarose, a polymer material extracted from seaweed. Previously designed and developed by the University of Granada team, the scientists combined the material with stem cells derived from Wharton's jelly (HWJSCs), a substance within the umbilical cord as well as part of the eyeball, applying them to two regeneration structures -- skin and mucosa, a mucus-secreting membrane lining the nose, mouth, lungs, urinary and digestive tracts.

"Perinatal stem cells such as human umbilical cord Wharton's jelly stem cells (HWJSCs) are excellent candidates for tissue engineering because of their proliferation and differentiation capabilities," according to the study.

The results, the researchers say, suggest that " HWJSCs have the potential to differentiate to oral mucosa and skin epithelial cells in vivo and could be an appropriate novel cell source for the development of human oral mucosa and skin in tissue engineering protocols."

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