One Unit of Lab-Grown Human Skin Now Costs 34 Euros
May 21, 2009 16:03
Thanks to advances in biotechnology, German researchers can now rapidly mass produce swatches of real human skin. At 34 Euros per unit, this manufactured skin is so cheap you might soon find it for sale next to bandages in the pharmacy.
Yesterday at the massive BIO conference in Atlanta, company Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft showed off its new rapid skin development machinery (pictured).
This new skin differs from other tissue-engineered skin because its structure is exactly like what's on your body. It's got two layers made up of different cell types, while other manufactured skin tends to be one thin layer made up of only one type of cell. How does it work? According to Science Daily:
In a multi-stage process, first small pieces of skin are sterilized. Then they are cut into small pieces, modified with specific enzymes, and isolated into two cell fractions, which are then propagated separately on cell culture surfaces. The next step in the process combines the two cell types into a two-layer model, with collagen added to the cells that are to form the flexible lower layer, or dermis. This gives the tissue natural elasticity. In a humid incubator kept at body temperature, it takes the cell fractions less than three weeks to grow together and form a finished skin model with a diameter of roughly one centimeter. The technique has already proven its use in practice, but until now it has been too expensive and complicated for mass production.
That's all changing now. And the next step is to create skin that can be used for more than testing skin products. The killer app for this is clearly a skin that will be plug-and-play, completely ready to stick right onto your body. How will the researchers do that? By building blood vessels into their next generation skin.
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft scientists are already working on human skin with blood vessels, and they report that the machines they use to automate tissue production should work on this version of their skin too. I would definitely be willing to pay 34 Euros for a skin replacement if I got injured. The question is, how long before this stuff is being sold over-the-counter for scrapes and cuts? Or, you know, to cover up those pesky rips that reveal your metal cyborg endoskeleton?
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