By plucking out a few hairs, researchers are growing skin grafts from patients’ own cells.The technique, called EpiDex, has been developed by Modex Therapeutics, a Swiss company. It could replace the painful removal of skin from other parts of the body for grafts or tissue culturing.
The procedure involves taking adult stem cells, which are found in hair follicles, and transforming them into skin cells. Doctors take between 20 and 100 hairs from any point on the patient’s body – but mainly the scalp – and send them to Modex, which grows the skin. The stem cells are laid out on trays placed above a layer of unrelated human cells provided by a single donor. They secrete factors that help cause the stem cells above change into epidermal ones called keratinocytes. The next step is to expose the cells to air to turn them into skin.
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