Skin Anatomy and Antigen Expression after Burn Wound Closure with Composite Grafts of Cultured Skin Cells and Biopolymers

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Closure of large skin wounds (i.e., burns, congenital giant nevus, reconstruction of traumatic injury) with split-thickness skin grafts requires extensive harvesting of autologous skin. Composite grafts consisting of collagen-glycosaminoglycan (GAG) substrates populated with cultured dermal fibroblasts and epidermal keratinocytes were tested in a pilot study on full-thickness burn wounds of three patients as an alternative to split-thickness skin. Light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy showed regeneration of epidermal and dermal tissue by 2 weeks, with degradation of the collagen-GAG implant associated with low numbers of leukocytes, and deposition of new collagen by fibroblasts. Complete basement membrane, including anchoring fibrils and anchoring plaques, is formed by 2 weeks, is mature by 3 months, and accounts for the absence of blistering of healed epidermis. All skin antigens tested (involucrin, filaggrin, laminin, collagens IV and VII, fibronectin, and chondroitin-sulfate) were expressed by 16 days after grafting. This cultured skin analogue provides an experimental alternative to split-thickness skin graft that develops histiotypic markers of skin anatomy and antigen expression after wound closure.

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