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Fully human skin cultures created with laminin

Researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore and the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) used laminins from the human body to create a safer treatment for severe burns and other skin-related injuries. According to a study published in Nature Communications, this is the first fully human system developed to cultivate keratinocytes for human skin grafting (Oct. 30, 2018; 9(1):4432).

Specifically, the laminin proteins LN-511 and LN-421 were used in this model. Investigators used the laminin as a supportive cell culture matrix, based on previous studies that illustrated the protein can support the growth of human keratinocytes.

Photo of skin graft donor site from

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“Laminins have been transforming cell biology and are known to maintain stem cells and tissues architecture and function in a way that mimics the situation in the human body,” said lead study author Dr. Karl Tryggvason, professor in the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Programme and the Tanoto Foundation Professor in Diabetes Research at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, in a press release. ”The laminins play an important role in several human diseases, such as those of skin.”

“Our method of using biologically relevant laminins in their pure forms to develop a fully human cell culture system for growing skin keratinocytes in the laboratory is a first and is likely to translate into novel treatments for many different skin disorders and wounds,” added Dr. Tryggvason.

Traditionally, human skin cells have been cultured using combined human-animal culture methodologies. These techniques expose patients to the potential risks of infections and adverse immune reactions. Moreover, these cultured keratinocytes are only approved for the treatment of a small subset of patients with burns, or similar cutaneous injuries. For example, in the U.S., human-animal skin cultures are only authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of severe burns (those that cover more than 30% of total body surface area) or for compassionate use.

“This new method provides a robust yet safer system for our burn patients. More importantly, it sets the stage for a cell culture platform for other regenerative medicine applications–these include the cultivation of cells from other surface tissues of the body, such as the cornea or oral mucosa,” said the co-lead author of the study, Dr. Alvin Chua, deputy head of the Skin Bank Unit at SGH’s Department of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery and adjunct assistant professor at the Musculoskeletal Sciences Academic Clinical Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School, in a press release.

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