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Embryonic Stem Cells Show Potential for Skin Substitute

Cells used to create pluristratified epidermis; may help burn patients waiting for autologous graft

FRIDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can be used to create a stratified epithelium resembling normal human epidermis, a finding that has potential implications in producing temporary skin replacement for burn patients, according to research published in the Nov. 21 issue of The Lancet.

Hind Guenou, Ph.D., of the Institute for Stem Cell Therapy and Exploration of Monogenic Diseases in Evry Cedex, France, and colleagues analyzed data from experiments using hESCs from two cell lines -- SA01 and H9 -- grown on mouse fibroblasts.

The researchers found that the resulting cells, resembling keratinocytes, showed expression levels of genes encoding keratin 14 and 5, integrin α6 and β4, collagen VII, and laminin 5 comparable to those of basal keratinocytes. The keratinocytes from hESCs were used to generate epidermis on an artificial matrix, which showed basal, spinosum, granulosum, and corneum layers. After grafting on mice, epidermis from hESC keratinocytes showed a pluristratified structure comparable to human skin.

"Although clinical applications of hESC-derived keratinocytes need the establishment of standardized cell products under Good Manufacturing Practice conditions to ensure efficacy and safety for patients, these issues apply to all cell-therapy products derived from hESCs, and will no doubt be addressed in clinical trials. Meanwhile, the ability to specify hESCs down the keratinocyte lineage is an important advance in the development of therapies for patients with large skin deficits and skin diseases such as epidermolysis bullosa," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

The study was partially funded by Genopole.

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