Stem cells to create new skin for patients with burns and skin diseases

Researchers has succeeded in recreating a whole epidermis from human embryonic stem cells, revealed in a new study conducted by Marc Peschanski of INSERM published in the Lancet.

This would prove an alternative treatment in particular for victims of third degree burns and patients with genetic diseases affecting the skin.

Cell therapy has radically changed the life of serious burn victims. For more than two decades, physicians have used cell culture techniques in order to obtain a sufficiently large area of skin to reconstruct the destroyed epidermis from a small sample harvested from the patients themselves.

Although this type of graft has been used with success, one of its limits is the time required (three weeks) to produce a sufficient amount of epidermis to cover the affected areas, leaving the patient unprotected during this interval. For a few years, research has led to the development of skin substitutes that help protect patients during the period before grafting. However, these technological means do not rule out the risk of immune rejection and transmission of disease.

Rapid access to an unlimited number of cells capable of yielding a well-formed epidermis, perfectly controlled in the laboratory before use, would therefore be the ideal solution to the problems posed by existing techniques. For these reasons the I-STEM researchers attempted to reconstruct a whole epidermis using human embryonic stem cells.

Research on human embryonic stem cells is at the centre of the debate on the bioethics laws. Since the bioethics law of 2004, this research is authorized by special dispensation in exceptional cases after submitting protocols to the Biomedecine Agency for an opinion. The I-STEM team is one of the 28 French teams to have received an authorisation to conduct research on these cells.

These studies were financed in particular by Telethon donations.

Source: INSERM, France



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