Stem Cells and Wound Healing

ATsai Editor
  • As research in dermatology progresses, more is learned about the outer-layer of the skin, the epidermis. Researchers are studying the importance of how it acts to protect the body, how it affects wound healing and the role bacteria might play. Here is some of the latest research on the epidermis, skin bacteria and wound healing.


    Lab-grown epidermis may eliminate need for animal testing

    Researchers have developed the first lab-grown epidermis, which has a functional permeability barrier similar to real skin. The epidermis is grown from human pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), and could be a cost-effective way to test drugs and cosmetics, rather than using lab animals.

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    The purpose of the epidermis is to form a protective barrier between the body and the environment. It prevents water from escaping the body and microbes and toxins from entering. Researchers had been unable to grow an epidermis with a functional barrier necessary for drug testing, and had been limited in the number of cells that can be grown from a single skin biopsy sample.


    The new study, published in Stem Cell Reports, uses the iPSCs to produce an unlimited amount of keratinocytes, which is the predominant type of cell in the epidermis. These cells closely match those generated from human embryonic stem cells and keratinoctyes from skin biopsies. Then, researchers used these cells to make 3D epidermal equivalents using a high-to-low humidity environment to create the permeability barrier. They could see no significant difference between what they created in the lab and normal human skin.


    Researchers hope that this model can be used to study how the skin barrier develops, and how to stimulate repair and recovery.


    Stem cells in fetal skin may offer scar-less wound healing for adults


    A new stem cell has been identified in fetal skin and blood that may play a role in scar-less wound healing. In early fetal development, skin wounds go through a process of regeneration and heal without scar formation. This mechanism of wound healing later disappears.


    Researchers are studying these stem cells to see how to apply the mechanisms to adult skin wounds to minimize scarring.


    Skin bacteria may predict if wounds heal

    Certain wounds, particularly in the elderly, never seem to heal, and some may last for years. But new research suggests that the bacteria that lives on our skin may play an important role in why some wounds heal and others do not.

    Researchers compared skin bacteria from people with chronic wounds to bacteria from people whose wounds did heal. They found significant differences in the bacterial colonies of the two groups, which suggests there may be a bacterial pattern for wounds that do not heal. Researchers say this may enable doctors to swab a wound for bacteria to see if the wound is likely to heal or persist, and then make treatment decisions.


    For the second part of the study, researchers studied wounds on mice to see why some healed and other did not. They found that mice with a particular gene mutation, which is linked to Crohn’s disease, had more harmful bacteria and healed more slowly than mice with the normal gene. The gene is known to help cells identify and react to bacteria, which suggests that those mice with the mutation were not able to process the right response to the bacteria.


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    In the future, researchers hope that studying skin bacteria can help doctors address bad bacteria without harming good bacteria.



    London, K. (2014, April 29). "Animals could be replaced in drug and cosmetics testing by skin layer grown from human stem cells." Medical News Today.

    Retrieved from


    Liebert, M. (2014, April 14). "Applying lessons learned from fetal skin to reduce scarring in adult wounds." Medical News Today. Retrieved from


    Paddock, C. (2014, May 2). "Bacteria living on skin may affect how wounds heal." Medical News Today. Retrieved from


Published On: May 09, 2014