LONG-TERM REGENERATION OF HUMAN EPIDERMIS ON THIRD DEGREE BURNS TRANSPLANTED WITH AUTOLOGOUS CULTURED EPITHELIUM GROWN ON A FIBRIN MATRIX1,2


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Abstract

Background.Extensive third degree burn wounds can be permanently covered by the transplantation of autologous cultured keratinocytes.Many modifications to Green and colleagues’ original technique have been suggested, including the use of a fibrin matrix. However, the properties of the cultured cells must be assessed using suitable criteria before a modified method of culture for therapeutic purposes is transferred to clinical use, because changes in culture conditions may reduce keratinocyte lifespan and result in the loss of the transplanted epithelium.Methods.To evaluate the performances of human keratinocytes grown on a fibrin matrix, we assay for their colony-forming ability, their growth potential and their ability to generate an epidermis when grafted onto athymic mice. The results of these experiments allowed us to compare side by side the performance for third degree burn treatment of autologous cultured epithelium grafts grown according to Rheinwald and Green on fibrin matrices with that of grafts grown directly on plastic surfaces.Results.We found that human keratinocytes cultured on a fibrin matrix had the same growth capacity and transplantability as those cultured on plastic surfaces and that the presence of a fibrin matrix greatly facilitated the preparation, handling, and surgical transplantation of the grafts, which did not need to be detached enzymatically. The rate of take of grafts grown on fibrin matrices was high, and was similar to that of conventionally cultured grafts. The grafted autologous cells are capable of generating a normal epidermis for many years and favor the regeneration of a superficial dermis.Conclusion.We have demonstrated that: 1) fibrin matrices have considerable advantages over plastic for the culture of skin cells for grafting and that it is now possible to generate and transplant enough cultured epithelium from a small skin biopsy to restore completely the epidermis of an adult human in 16 days; and 2) the generated epidermis self-renews itself for years. The use of fibrin matrices thus significantly improves the transplantation of cultured epithelium grafts for extensive burns as recently demonstrated in a follow-up work.

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