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An Artificial Skin

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Skin from a factory has long been the dream of dermatologists. Now, scientists are on track to develop what they claim is the “artificial¬† skin”.

A team from four Fraunhofer institutes in Germany is developing the first fully automatic production system for two-layer “skin models” — an almost perfect copy of human skin or artificial skin.

“Our engineers and biologists are the only ones who have succeeded in fully automating the entire process chain for manufacturing two-layer skin models,” said leader J√∂rg Saxler of Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT.

According to the scientists, in a multi-stage process, first small pieces of skin are sterilized. Then they are cut into small pieces, modified with specific enzymes, and isolated into two cell fractions, which are then propagated separately on cell culture surfaces.

The next step in the process combines the two cell types into a two-layer model, with collagen added to the cells that are to form the flexible lower layer, or dermis. This gives the tissue natural elasticity, they said.

In a humid incubator kept at body temperature, it takes the cell fractions less than three weeks to grow together and form a finished skin model with a diameter of roughly one centimetre.

The technique has already proven its use in practice, but until now it has been too expensive and complicated for mass production, according to the scientists.

“The production is associated with a great deal of manual work, and this reduces the method’s efficiency,” Prof Heike Mertsching, a team member of Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, said.

The team is now handling the development of the biological fundamentals and validation of the machine and its sub-modules, taking care of prototype development, automation and integration of the machine into a complete system.

“At the beginning, our greatest challenge was to overcome existing barriers, because each discipline had its own very different approach.

“Meanwhile, the four institutes are working together very smoothly. Everyone knows progress is impossible without input from others. Our goal is a monthly production of 5,000 skin models with perfect quality,” Saxler said.

Sources:The Times Of India

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