British scientists have developed lab grown artificial skin that can be an alternative to painful skin graft and revolutionise the treatment of burns victims.
The artificial skin, currently only known only as ICX-SKN could also be used to help healing the wounds of many other patients, including those who have had cancerous growths cut out.
Scientists have transplanted small pieces of the artificially grown skin - less than an inch-square - onto the arms of six people paving the way for larger scale trials.
It quickly knitted with the patients' own skin, and, after a month, the wounds healed up with relatively little scarring, said online edition of Daily Mail quoting a report that appeared in the journal Regenerative Medicine.
When the lab-grown skin was examined under the microscope, it was virtually indistinguishable from the natural skin, with the body's network of blood vessels stretching across the artificial patch. Crucially, the body did not reject the transplanted skin.
Currently, badly burned sections of skin are usually replaced with healthy sections of skin taken from other areas of the body. However, the painful procedure is far from ideal, as it creates an extra wound on an already badly injured patient.
But the sections of artificial skin - the same thickness as that on the body are grown in square trays in the lab. Each tray contains millions of fibroblasts, the cells responsible for the production of collagen - the protein that gives skin its strength and elasticity.
Using a series of chemicals, the fibroblasts - obtained from an anonymous donor - are coaxed into multiplying and producing collagen. After six or seven weeks, the cells and collagen knit together to form a section of skin-like material.
"We envisage that it could be made in different sizes allowing it to be fitted together like a jigsaw, Richard Moulson, of Intercytex, said.
"A surgeon would go to the fridge, retrieve the right size and place it on the wound. "It would then be bandaged up and off you'd go."
Previous attempts by other companies to make artificial skin have all ended in failure. The artificial skin developed by scientists at Cambridge-based biotechnology firm Intercytex could be on the market in as little as three years, with surgeons simply reaching into the fridge to retrieve pre-prepared skin as needed.