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J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 1998 Aug;3(2):114-20.

Stratum corneum lipid composition and structure in cultured skin substitutes is restored to normal after grafting onto athymic mice.

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Department of Dermatology, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands.


Restoration of an epidermal barrier is a definitive requirement for wound closure. Cultured skin substitutes grafted onto athymic nude mice were used as a model for a long-term study of stratum corneum barrier lipid metabolism and organization. Samples of stratum corneum collected after 12 and 21 d in vitro and 6, 11, and 24 mo postgrafting were examined for their lipid and fatty acid composition, and their lipid organization and structure using electron microscopy and small angle X-ray diffraction, respectively. All of these methods confirm the impaired barrier function of cultured skin substitutes in vitro, as judged from the deviations in lipid composition and from poor organization of the stratum corneum lipids that show no lamellar structure. At 6 mo postgrafting, the total stratum corneum lipid profiles of the epidermal grafts is close to that of the human stratum corneum with the exception of the presence of mouse specific lipids. The increase of ceramides 4-7 in cultured skin substitutes after grafting indicates restored activity of processes involved in the hydroxylation of fatty acids and sphingoid bases. Conversely, the ceramide profile still reveals some abnormalities (elevated content of ceramide 2 and slightly lower content of ceramide 3) and the content of long-chain fatty acids remains below its physiologic level at 6 mo postgrafting, but normalizes by 2 y postgrafting. The ultramicroscopic observations revealed the formation of lamellar extracellular lipid domains by 4 mo postgrafting. Despite these findings, the X-ray diffraction showed differences in the diffraction pattern at 2 y after grafting, suggesting that the organization of stratum corneum lipids in all epidermal grafts differs from that of the native skin.

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