Artificial skin
Artificial skin has been created with hair follicles and sweat glands Takashi Tsuji, RIKEN

Scientists have successfully grown skin tissue in a lab, complete with hair follicles and sweat glands. The skin was transplanted onto mice, and formed active connections to nerves and muscle fibres; key to making fully working skin cells.

The research, published in Science Advances, opens the door to successful skin transplants for burn victims, or other patients that need new skin.

Artificial skin has made leaps forward over recent years, as scientists have created a number of different types of tissue. However, two key elements have been lacking; hair follicles and sweat glands, used for waterproofing the skin and hair. This meant previous artificial skins have not been fully functional after being transplanted onto living organisms.

Artificial hair follicle
Hair follicles can be seen growing from the artificial skin Takashi Tsuji, RIKEN

Scientists from the Riken Center for Developmental Biology aimed to create fully functional skin tissue, which incorporated all of the essential parts needed for normal tissue.

They used stem cells originally taken from mice gums. A protein was added to transform the stem cells into embryonic cells. They were then implanted onto mice, and the cells gradually began to 'grow up' as skin cells, just as it would in a normal embryo.

As the cells developed, they matured into a certain type of skin tissue responsible for controlling the amount of hair follicles that the skin develops, as well as the sweat glands. This means the artificial skin cells successfully functioned as normal skin tissue.

"With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue," said Takashi Tsuji, lead author of the study. "We are coming ever closer to the dream of being able to recreate actual organs in the lab for transplantation, and also believe that tissue grown through this method could be used as an alternative to animal testing of chemicals."