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Br J Plast Surg. 2000 Sep;53(6):459-65.

Evaluation of dermal-epidermal skin equivalents ('composite-skin') of human keratinocytes in a collagen-glycosaminoglycan matrix(Integra artificial skin).

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  • 1Department of Plastic, Hand and Reconstructive Surgery, Burn Unit, Hannover Medical School, Germany.


Integra artificial skin (Integra LifeSciences Corp., Plainsboro, NJ, USA) is a dermal template consisting of bovine collagen, chondroitin-6-sulphate and a silastic membrane manufactured as Integra. This product has gained widespread use in the clinical treatment of third degree burn wounds and full thickness skin defects of different aetiologies. The product was designed to significantly reduce the time needed to achieve final wound closure in the treatment of major burn wounds, to optimise the sparse autologous donor skin resources and to improve the durable mechanical quality of the skin substitute. The clinical procedure requires two stages. The first step creates a self neodermis, the second creates a self epidermis on the neodermis. However, it is desirable to cover major burn wounds early in a single step by a skin substitute consisting of a dermal equivalent seeded in vitro with autologous keratinocytes ('composite-skin') out of which a full thickness skin develops in vivo.The goal of this experimental study was to develop a method to integrate human keratinocytes in homogeneous distribution and depth into Integra Artificial Skin. The seeded cell-matrix composites were grafted onto athymic mice in order to evaluate their potential to reconstitute a human epidermis in vivo. We were able to demonstrate that the inoculated human keratinocytes reproducibly displayed a homogeneous pattern of distribution, adherence, proliferation and confluence. The cell-matrix composites grafted in this model exhibited good wound adherence, complete healing, minor wound contraction and had the potential to reconstitute an elastic, functional and durable human skin. Histologically we were able to show that the inoculated human keratinocytes in vivo colonised the matrix in a histomorphologically characteristic epidermal pattern (keratomorula, keratinocyte bubbling) and developed a persisting, stratified, keratinising epidermis which immunohistologically proved to be of human origin. These experimental results demonstrate the establishment of an effective cell cultivation process which may be suitable for scale-up production of the epidermal component as large-scale composite-skin grafts. When seeded into Integratrade mark and grafted onto the nude mouse a replacement skin with normal functioning dermal-epidermal components was developed. These results encourage the design of a clinical trial to assess the function of this composite graft in man.

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