WINSTON-SALEM, NC – October 4, 2023 - A research paper published today in Science Translational Medicine presents a significant breakthrough in the area of skin regeneration and wound healing by researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM). The study, titled "Bioprinted Skin with Multiple Cell Types Promotes Skin Regeneration, Vascularization, and Epidermal Rete Ridge Formation in Full-Thickness Wounds," shows the successful development of bioprinted skin that accelerate wound healing, support healthy extracellular matrix remodeling, and provide optimism for complete wound recovery. Anthony Atala, M.D., director of WFIRM and Adam Jorgensen, M.D., Ph.D., post-doctorate researcher at WFIRM, co-led the study.
Skin regeneration has long been studied with hopes of providing burn victims, wounded warriors, and those with skin disorders opportunities at complete healing. Available grafts are often temporary, or if permanent, have only some of the elements of normal skin, which often have a scarred appearance. The creation of full thickness skin has not been possible to date. This study involved the bioprinting of all six major primary human cell types present in skin combined with specialized hydrogels as a bioink. Multi-layered full thickness skin was created which contained all three layers present in normal human tissue: epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. When transplanted in pre-clinical settings, the bioprinted skin formed blood vessels, skin patterns, and normal tissue formation. Additional arms of the study demonstrated improved wound closure, reduced skin contraction, and more collagen production to reduce scarring.
“Comprehensive skin healing is a significant clinical challenge, affecting millions of individuals worldwide, with limited options,” explained Dr. Atala, who is the primary author on the paper. “These results show that the creation of full thickness human bioengineered skin is possible, and promotes quicker healing and more naturally appearing outcomes.”
By leveraging existing bioprinting technology to address these limitations, the team at WFIRM has proven that fully functional skin regeneration is possible. The bioengineered skin grafts offer a triple-layer structure for full-thickness wound coverage.
In addition to Atala and Jorgensen, the research team includes Anastasiya Gorkun, Ph.D., Naresh Mahajan, Ph.D., Kelsey Willson, Ph.D., Cara Clouse, D.V.M., Claire G. Jeong, Mathew Varkey, Ph.D., Mingsong Wu, Stephen J. Walker, Ph.D., Joseph A. Molnar, M.D., Ph.D., Sean V. Murphy, Ph.D., Sang Jin Lee, Ph.D., James J Yoo, M.D., Ph.D., and Shay Soker, Ph.D., all of Wake Forest University School of Medicine. The full research paper, "Bioprinted Skin with Multiple Cell Types Promotes Skin Regeneration, Vascularization, and Epidermal Rete Ridge Formation in Full-Thickness Wounds," is available for review in the October issue of Science Translational Medicine, a leading peer-reviewed journal that publishes cutting-edge research with the potential to transform clinical practice and improve patient care.
About the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine: The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is recognized as an international leader in translating scientific discovery into clinical therapies, with many world firsts, including the development and implantation of the first engineered organ in a patient. Over 450 people at the institute, the largest in the world, work on more than 40 different tissues and organs. A number of the basic principles of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine were first developed at the institute. WFIRM researchers have successfully engineered replacement tissues and organs in all four categories – flat structures, tubular tissues, hollow organs and solid organs – and 16 different applications of cell/tissue therapy technologies, such as skin, urethras, cartilage, bladders, muscle, kidney, and vaginal organs, have been successfully used in human patients. The institute, which is part of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, is located in the Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem, NC, and is driven by the urgent needs of patients. The institute is making a global difference in regenerative medicine through collaborations with over 500 entities and institutions worldwide, through its government, academic and industry partnerships, its start-up entities, and through major initiatives in breakthrough technologies, such as tissue engineering, cell therapies, diagnostics, drug discovery, biomanufacturing, nanotechnology, gene editing and 3D printing.
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Science Translational Medicine
Method of Research
Subject of Research
Lab-produced tissue samples
Multicellular bioprinted skin facilitates human-like skin architecture in vivo
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