Production line for artificial skin

Dec 09, 2008
A cross-section through artificial skin (left) compared to section through human skin (right). Both the natural and the artificial skin are made up of three layers. Credit: Fraunhofer IGB

Some patients wish they had a second skin – for instance because their own skin has been burnt in a severe accident. But transplanting skin is a painstaking task, and a transplant that has to cover large areas often requires several operations. Medical scientists have therefore been trying for a long time to grow artificial tissue. This "artificial skin" would allow them to treat these patients better and faster.

Tissue engineering has been at the focus of research for many years, and tissues such as cartilage or skin are already being cultured in numerous biotechnology laboratories. But the researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart plan to go a step further than that. They are aiming to enable fully automated tissue production.

"Until now, methods of culturing tissue like that used for skin transplants have been very expensive," says IGB head of department Professor Heike Mertsching. "Most of the steps are carried out manually, which means that the process is not particularly efficient." The researchers have therefore elaborated a novel conceptual design in collaboration with colleagues from the Fraunhofer Institutes for Production Technology IPT, Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA, and Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI.

First of all, a biopsy – that is, a sample of human tissue – is checked for sterility. A gripper arm then transports the biopsy into the automated device where the individual steps are performed: The machine cuts the biopsy into small pieces, isolates the different cell types, stimulates their growth, and mixes the skin cells with collagen. A three-dimensional reconstruction of the different skin layers is produced with the aid of a special gel matrix – and the skin is ready. In the final step, the machine packages the cells for shipment. Alternatively, the tissue can be cryopreserved – that is, deep-frozen and stored for later use.

"It was important for us that the entire mechanical process is divided into separate modules," says Mertsching. "This enables us to replace or modify individual modules, depending what is needed for the production of different tissue types." The method opens up almost unlimited new possibilities for the medical scientists. One of their upcoming projects is to produce intestinal tissue for resorption tests.

Source: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Explore further: How can we avoid kelp beds turning into barren grounds?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists map mouse genome's 'mission control centers'

Nov 19, 2014

When the mouse and human genomes were catalogued more than 10 years ago, an international team of researchers set out to understand and compare the "mission control centers" found throughout the large stretches ...

When thawing glaciers release pollutants

Nov 03, 2014

As glaciers increasingly melt in the wake of climate change, it is not only the landscape that is affected. Thawing glaciers also release many industrial pollutants stored in the ice into the environment. ...

Pure gold nanoparticles can inhibit fat storage

Apr 18, 2013

(Phys.org) —New research reveals that pure gold nanoparticles found in everyday items such as personal care products, as well as drug delivery, MRI contrast agents and solar cells can inhibit adipose (fat) ...

Recommended for you

Parasitic worm genomes: largest-ever dataset released

16 hours ago

The largest collection of helminth genomic data ever assembled has been published in the new, open-access WormBase-ParaSite. Developed jointly by EMBL-EBI and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, this new ...

Male sex organ distinguishes 30 millipede species

16 hours ago

The unique shapes of male sex organs have helped describe thirty new millipede species from the Great Western Woodlands in the Goldfields, the largest area of relatively undisturbed Mediterranean climate ...

How can we avoid kelp beds turning into barren grounds?

20 hours ago

Urchins are marine invertebrates that mould the biological richness of marine grounds. However, an excessive proliferation of urchins may also have severe ecological consequences on marine grounds as they ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.