Traditional ways of dealing with large losses of skin have been to use skin grafts or from a different person/cadaver. The former approach has the disadvantage that there may not be enough skin available, while the latter suffers from the possibility of rejection or infection.
Now scientists have developed a breakthrough technique to grow artificial skin - using stem cells taken from the umbilical cord. The new method means major burn patients could benefit from faster skin grafting as the artificial skin can be stored and used when needed.
To create this, the scientists used Wharton jelly mesenschymal stem cells from the human umbilical cord. They combined the umbilical cord stem cells with a biomaterial made of fibrin - a protein found in the clotting of blood - and agarose - a polymer usually extracted from seaweed. When tested in vivo, the combination of the Wharton jelly mesenschymal stem cells and biomaterial led to the growth of artificial skin and oral mucosa - a mucous membrane lining the inside of the mouth.