Bone Marrow Stem Cells Can Create Customized Skin Grafts

Fri Feb 18, 2005 - 12:15 pm EST

WASHINGTON, February 18, 2005 ( - The uses of adult stem cells seem to know no boundaries. In recent months, has reported on new discoveries for treating maladies as diverse as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and blindness. Now it is being shown that adult stem cells taken from bone marrow can be used to create perfectly matched skin grafts for surgery following burns or other disfiguring accidents or even breast cancer.

Scientists at University of Illinois in Chicago have told a conference that they have stimulated stem cells from a human donor to develop into the fatty tissue of the skin. Jeremy Mao, professor of tissue engineering, said that female cancer patients undergoing a mastectomy may have their breast replacements grown from their own cells for reconstructive surgery. 

In experiments with mice, skin replacement pieces were grown and could be guided to grow into desired shapes. “After four weeks we found the implant was indeed generating adipose tissue from stem cells, and that its shape and dimensions were well retained,” Professor Mao said.  Mao said that a great advantage is that since the grafts are made from the patient’s own cells, there is no danger of immune system rejection.

“The technique is also applicable for other soft tissue, facial tissue such as the lips and so on. The great thing about the stem cell-derived implant is that its shape and dimensions were retained,” he told the conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC.

In related stem cell news, a group of lobbyists are in Washington to persuade legislators to earmark more funds for bone marrow transplant research and the wider use of adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood. The lobbyists hope to reinstate national bone marrow registry program, that was cancelled some months ago.

Unlike chemotherapy, said Jeffrey Chell, chief executive officer of the National Marrow Donor Program, “transplantation is curative because it not only replaces the cells your body is missing, but these new donor cells actually seek out remaining cancer cells and kill them.” 

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