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Artificial skin is skin
grown in a laboratory that can be used as skin replacement for people who have suffered skin trauma such as severe burns or skin diseases. Alternatively, it can also refer to skin synthetically produced for other purposes.
For many patients with severe burns, skin grafting is not possible, because they have very little healthy skin left or cannot withstand the traumatic surgery. One solution is cadaver or animal skin, however these are prone to rejection, which then requires more surgery to replace that skin with more cadaver or animal skin. This creates an unnecessary and traumatic circle. Artificial skin is a new solution that the FDA has approved.
In 1997, Dermagraft-TC became available. It is made from human cells. It is used as a temporary covering, that allows the flesh to be covered while the natural healing process takes place. The artificial skin keeps out infection that would take place if wounds were left uncovered. Deramgraft-TC was the first artificial skin covering that was cleared by the FDA.
Integra Artificial Skin
: Integra is a skin graft that contains no living components. Integra, like derma graft, is a temporary skin covering. It
is made by taking cells from non-burned epidermal skin layers and growing them in large sheets which is placed on top of integra sheets. Integra covers burned skin while the patients own skin regenerates itself, keeping out infection. Integra is composed of bovine collagen, and carbohydrates. The finished product looks a little like plastic wrap. Integra is kept of a patient for 2-4 weeks.
BioBrane is another artificial wound covering. Unlike Dermagraft, BioBrane is made from silicone, nylon, and collagen. BioBrane contains nylon that makes the blood from the wound clot and allows new skin growth. Again, BioBrane istemporary and is used to provide a covering to keep out infection and provide pain relief.
Usually, loss of skin will be dealt with by use of a skin graph from either another part of the body on the same person, or from another person or cadaver. The disadvantage to the latter option is that since the skin is not from the same person, there is a risk of infection or rejection.
There has been a recent development in this area that has introduced an artificial skin made with semiconductor materials that allow it to sense touch. This would be especially useful in robot prosthetics in that they would be able to judge how strong of a grip is necessary to hold something.
MIT has also been successful in using artificial skin to treat burn patients who aren't always able to receive a skin graph from another part of the body. The artificial skin allows for a drastic reduction in scaring and also grows with the body, which is especially important for children. The only downside being that the artificial skin does not have the sweat glands and hair follicles of real skin.
The advantage to using temporary skin grafts is that they allow the body to naturally regenerate its own skin while providing the protection of artificial skin. By creating artificial skin in a lab, some that contain human cells and some that don't, you are able to reduce the risk of rejection, thus adding more unnecessary, painful precedes to the patient.
Wikipedia.org: Artificial Skin
Yahoo! News: Artificial "Skin" Materials Can Sense Pressure
MIT Article On Artificial Skin and Burn Victims
Artificial skin sensitive enough to feel a butterfly
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