Hoping to create living skin that is completely functional when grafted onto a body, burns experts at the University of Sydney and Concord Hospital are carrying out animal trails for the same.
Researchers hope the full thickness artificial skin, grown outside the body, would significantly reduce the pain and scarring associated with skin grafts.
AdvertisementWhile traditional skin grafts involve only the thin outer layer of the skin (the epidermis), the new skin will be able to replace the crucial second layer of skin (the dermis).
This layer is responsible for vital functions like temperature control, perspiration, toughness and elasticity, and when it is missing, the body reacts by producing large swathes of scarring underneath the skin graft.
"It takes the body weeks to grow into a skin graft and in that time a lot of excess elastic fibres and collagen will be produced that will then turn into a scar," The Sydney Morning Herald quoted the skin co-creator Peter Maitz, chairman for burn, injury and reconstructive surgery at the University of Sydney, as saying.
He added: "This is a huge problem, particularly around the face, hands or genital area.
"The scar contracts and it can get so tight that patients lose the movement of their mouth and can't talk, or they can't bend their fingers".
Prof Maitz and his team have unveiled an artificial scaffold into which the patient's own skin cells can be implanted, allowing them to grow into a functioning replacement dermis.
Prof Maitz said initial testing of the artificial dermis in mice demonstrated it does not scar and contract when it is transplanted.