Cultured skin substitutes have been used successfully for adjunctive treatment of excised burns and chronic skin wounds. However, limitations inherent to all models of cultured skin include deficient barrier function in vitro, and delayed keratinization after grafting in comparison to native skin autografts. Experimental conditions for incubation of skin substitutes were tested to stimulate barrier development before grafting, and measure responses in function and stability after grafting. Cultured skin substitutes consisted of human keratinocytes and fibroblasts attached to collagen‐glycosaminoglycan biopolymer substrates. Parallel cultured skin substitutes were incubated at the air–liquid interface in ambient (48–61%) or saturated (79–91%) relative humidity, and grafted to athymic mice on culture day 14. Additional cultured skin substitutes were incubated in the experimental conditions for a total of 28 days. Cadaveric human skin and acellular biopolymer substrates served as controls. Epidermal barrier was evaluated as the change in surface hydration by surface electrical capacitance with the NOVA™ Dermal Phase Meter. Cultured skin substitutes and cadaveric skin incubated in ambient humidity had lower baseline surface electrical capacitance and less change in surface electrical capacitance than parallel samples incubated in saturated humidity at all time points in vitro. Data from healing cultured skin substitutes at 2, 4, 8 and 12 weeks after grafting showed an earlier return to hydration levels comparable to native human skin, and more stable engraftment for skin substitutes from ambient humidity. The data indicate that cultured skin substitutes in ambient humidity have lower surface electrical capacitance and greater stability in vitro, and that they reform epidermal barrier more rapidly after grafting than cultured skin substitutes in saturated humidity. These results suggest that restoration of functional epidermis by cultured skin substitutes is stimulated by incubation in reduced humidity in vitro.
Wound Repair and Regeneration – Wiley
Published: Sep 1, 1999
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