Bioethics News

Artificial skin . Recent study opens the doors to production of functionally active skin

A very interesting innovation of using iPS cells for the production of epithelial tissue

A recent study published in Science Advances (2016; 2: e1500887, 1 April 2016), led by Takashi Tsuji of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, describes the production of skin, functionally active epithelial tissue, an undoubtedly major step for the possible treatment of patients with skin lesions, especially burns. In addition to its scientific-clinical interest, the study also has an attractive bioethical appeal, since it was carried out using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

Up until now, scientists have been able to generate artificial skin, but by developing epithelial cell structures only, without the concurrence of other types of skin cells necessary for the tissue produced to be functionally active.

The aforementioned study was conducted in mice, using cells from their gums, from which iPS cells were derived and cultured in a laboratory medium to develop three-dimensional skin structures.

The skin created was then transplanted to mice that had been previously genetically engineered to reduce their immune defences (called “nude” mice), in which normal epithelial tissue developed. This tissue was then transplanted in unmodified mice. The transplanted tissue was not rejected and they developed normal, functionally active tissue which connected with the surrounding tissue.

Main contribution of the study from a medical and bioethical viewpoint of the production of artificial skin

Technically, the main contribution of the Japanese team is that they used a molecule, Wnt 10b, in the generation of the iPS cells, which facilitated the production of sebaceous cells and hair follicles in the epithelial tissue produced.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.