Editors' ChoiceTissue Engineering

Inspiration on Perspiration: Putting Sweat Glands into Skin Grafts

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Science Translational Medicine  28 Apr 2010:
Vol. 2, Issue 29, pp. 29ec69
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001198

Whether we’re sweating to the oldies, sweating in a sauna, or just sweating on a warm summer day, our sweat glands are critically important in our everyday lives. The tiny secretory glands in our skin quickly remove excess heat and prevent our bodies from potentially fatal overheating. Severe burns or wounds to the skin can permanently damage sweat glands, resulting in a dangerous loss of thermoregulation. Engineered skin grafts can repair physical damage to the skin, but currently cannot restore other features such as sweat glands or hair follicles. Huang et al. have addressed this problem by creating a next-generation skin graft that incorporates sweat glands.

After creating epidermal and dermal cell layers by culturing human keratinocytes on a fibroblast-embedded collagen-based matrix, Huang et al. embedded gelatin microspheres containing sweat gland cells and epithelial growth factor into these engineered skin grafts. After 2 weeks in laboratory culture, these sweat gland “seeds” formed budlike structures that mimicked epithelial in-growth and sweat gland formation. When used as a wound dressing in a mouse model, the immature sweat glands developed further toward maturity. Unexpectedly, grafts containing these primitive sweat glands improved wound healing beyond that seen with control grafts without these features. These findings highlight the importance of incorporating sweat glands into engineered skin grafts—perhaps to accelerate healing as well as to regulate temperature. Next-generation grafts may improve the comfort and quality of life of burn victims and others needing gross skin repair.

S. Huang et al., In vitro constituation and in vivo implantation of engineered skin constructs with sweat glands. Biomaterials 15 April 2010 (10.1016/j.biomaterials.2010.03.060). [Abstract]

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