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J Invest Dermatol. 1996 Jul;107(1):121-7.

Evaluation of human skin reconstituted from composite grafts of cultured keratinocytes and human acellular dermis transplanted to athymic mice.

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Surgical Services, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Shriners Burns Institute, Boston, USA.


This study evaluates the use of composite grafts of cultured human keratinocytes and de-epidermalized, acellular human dermis to close full-thickness wounds in athymic mice. Grafts were transplanted onto athymic mice and studied up to 8 wk. Graft take was excellent, with no instances of infection or graft loss. By 1 wk, the human keratinocytes had formed a stratified epidermis that was fused with mouse epithelium, and by 8 wk the grafts resembled human skin and could be freely moved over the mouse dorsum. Immunostaining for keratins 10 and 16 and for involucrin revealed an initial pattern of epithelial immaturity, which by 8 wk had normalized to that of mature unwounded epithelium. Mouse fibroblasts began to infiltrate the acellular dermis as early as 1 wk. By 8 wk fibroblasts had completely repopulated the dermis, and blood vessels were evident in the most superficial papillary projections. Dermal elements, such as rete ridges and elastin fibers, which were present in the starting dermis, persisted for the duration of the experiment. Grafts using keratinocytes from dark-skinned donors as opposed to light-skin donors had foci of pigmentation as early as 1 wk that progressed to homogenous pigmentation of the graft by 6 wk. These results indicate that melanocytes that persist in vitro are able to resume normal function in vivo. Our study demonstrates that composite grafts of cultured keratinocytes combined with acellular dermis are a useful approach for the closure of full-thickness wounds.

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