Can you imagine a textile made of human skin cells? Sounds a bit science fiction, but a team of researchers from France, Columbia and the U.S. have made it happen. They have developed a yarn that can be woven into human textiles- a material that can be used to heal skin and even replace parts of damaged organs.
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It is a known fact that some patients immune system can reject foreign agents, so it is great news to read that the scientists have found a way to create textiles that the human body will most likely accept. They did this by producing a type of textiles out of human fibroblasts—cells that generally assist with the production of collagen and other fibres. The body will not reject them because they are natural human cells.
First published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia, the researchers explained how they first grew skin cell fibroblasts into sheets of material, and it is these extracellular matrix sheets that the researchers use to make yarn by modelling them into desired shapes. “We start with normal adult human cells that are grown in the lab, at the bottom of a special plastic container,” Nicholas L’Heureux, the researcher who led the work, told Digital Trends. “On that plastic, the cells will synthesize and assemble what is called an ‘extracellular matrix’ or ECM. The ECM is the basic scaffolding of practically every organ in the body. The most abundant, and best know, part of the ECM is a protein called collagen. In the right conditions, the cells will deposit a layer of ECM at the bottom of the container as a continuous sheet.”
The unique advantage of this new technique is that the textiles can be knitted, crocheted or weaved into unique patterns. “It does not require the use of scaffolds to create parts of organs—they can simply be fashioned in ways similar to knitting a hat or scarf,” state the researchers.
Already testing on human patients, the researchers have confirmed that they are already using the skin cell-based sheets to create a scaffold for lab-grown skin for use on burn patients. On their overall objectives, L’Heureux shared, “Our main goal is to produce a vascular graft made by weaving the CAM yarn. We are currently building prototypes and learning more about the handling of that new material. We will soon start testing these grafts in animals so that we can eventually move to human trials for patients who need heart bypass, leg bypass, or a vascular graft for hemodialysis.”
Founding editor-in-chief of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta is currently one of the leading influencers writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology. She has also given talks at Premiere Vision, Munich Fabric Start and Pure London, to name a few. Besides working as a fashion innovation consultant for various fashion companies like LVMH Atelier, Muchaneta has also contributed to Vogue Business, is a senior contributor at The Interline and an associate lecturer at London College of Fashion, UAL.