Considerable progress has been made in the culture of keratinocytes, making it possible to obtain a large number of cultured epithelial autograft (CEA) sheets from a small skin biopsy to cover extensive wound areas. Improvements in tissue engineering practices to deliver keratinocytes without compromising their regenerative or stem cell properties have also been described recently.
However, the use of murine feeder cells and undefined bovine serum in the keratinocyte cell culture system has always been a safety concern and this traditional technique is restricted only for the treatment of severe burns or for compassionate use.
A/Prof Alvin Chua and his team recently developed a robust fully human and chemically defined system with the use of biologically-relevant laminins – proteins from the basement membrane – to culture skin keratinocytes and their stem cells. They are preparing for a first-in-human clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy with this newly developed method. While CEA is a known useful modality for the reconstruction of extensive skin defects, they are hopeful that this new xeno-free and defined culture method can find broader use in the treatment of smaller burns and chronic wounds.