Researchers Engineer Hydrogel-based Skin Substitute Complete with Rete Ridges

*Depiction only; not the actual substrate
*Depiction only; not the actual substrate

Research published in Materials Science and Engineering: C describes the construction of tissue-engineered skin based on hydrogel networks and complete with rete ridges.

As the authors explain, tissue-engineered skin is a promising skin substitute, useful for in vitro research and skin repair, but usually it lacks rete ridges (RRs). These epithelial extensions project into underlying connective tissue, enhancing adhesion and providing a growth environment for epidermal stem cells.

See related: Kao and Tsukuba Univ. Scientists Devise Technique to Visualize the Depths of Skin Wrinkling

Here, the engineers prepared photocurable gelatin methacrylated (GelMA) and poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) co-network hydrogels. Using a UV-curing 3D printer, 3D micropatterns were replicated on these hydrogel scaffolds, with which human keratinocytes and skin fibroblasts were then co-cultured. 

The results showed 10%GelMA and 2%PEGDA hydrogels provided sufficient mechanical properties and biocompatibility to prepare a human skin model including RRs. The authors concluded this work demonstrates a simple and powerful way to mimic the structures of human skin and can contribute to skin tissue engineering and wound healing research.

See related: Sensing Epidermal Aging via Histone Variant H2A.J Biomarker

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