Artificial skin grafts

November 1, 2017
This article appeared in Berkeley Engineer magazine, Fall 2017

Putting the whole chicken-or-egg argument aside for a moment, Berkeley bioengineers recently participated in a study about how an organism’s cells become specialized; in this case, they looked at the path followed by generic chicken skin cells as they developed into feather follicles. The study — done in collaboration with Amy Shyer, Alan Rodrigues and Richard Harland from the molecular and cell biology department — grew skin taken from a week-old egg atop engineered materials. Many of these materials were generated by graduate student Elena Kassianidou, who works in bioengineering professor Sanjay Kumar’s lab investigating the role of mechanical forces on the biology of cancer and stem cells. The study’s findings could provide tips on how to grow artificial skin for grafts that looks like normal human skin, complete with hair follicles and sweat pores. Just the right tension on growing skin could set up these organized structures without the need to add chemicals to trigger them.