A Japanese lab has grown a 3D layer of skin that can sweat and sprout hairs.
The skin has sweat glands, follicles, sebaceous glands and three layers of skin cells. The researchers behind the study said the skin was able to "connect to other organ systems such as nerves and muscle fibres" and could eventually be used to treat burns patients or those requiring "new skin".
The research was led by the RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology in collaboration with Tokyo University of Science, been published in Science Advances
The team used cells from the gums of mice to create stem cells, which were then then developed into an "embryoid body". The researchers described this as "a three-dimensional clump of cells that partially resembles the developing embryo in an actual body".
The cells were then implanted into bald mice, where they connected with nerve and muscle tissues and "functioned normally", according to the team. "Up until now, artificial skin development has been hampered by the fact that the skin lacked the important organs, such as hair follicles and exocrine glands, which allow the skin to play its important role in regulation," said Takashi Tsuji, team leader at RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology and lead author on the study. "With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue," he continued. "We are coming ever closer to the dream of being able to recreate actual organs in the lab for transplantation, and also believe that tissue grown through this method could be used as an alternative to animal testing of chemicals."
Though "complete regeneration" of the skin is not yet realised, the team hope the research could help treat skin trauma, burns, "congenital depleted hair" or alopecia.