The skin is the largest organ of the human body, it acts as a protective barrier which separates in inside of the body to the surrounding environment. 1 The skin plays an important role in keeping our bodies safe from the sun (UV rays), harmful microbes that could cause bacterial infections, and dehydration. 1 As humans we sometimes do not remember that we are not invincible, and there is only so much our bodies can handle. If proper skin care is not assured there are several serious diseases that can occur which could result in skin transplants. Skin cancer has become an increasing issue in the health of many Canadians over the past 30 years.
The harmful UV rays change the cells in the skin which damage your DNA cells and weaken your immune system. 1 If the cancer is not caught straight away, the patient is more inclined to undergo a skin transplant surgery. The most common skin injuries people suffer from are burns. The treatment of burns are generally decided by how deep the wound is. Superficial burns only affect the outermost layer of the skin and so do not require surgery. 3 Partial thickness burns cause the skin to appear red, blistered and swollen, and vary in depth. 3 Generally partial thickness burns heal themselves in 10 to 14 days as the surrounding stem cells regenerate.
2 Deep partial thickness burns, commonly known as third degree burns cause a severe amount of damage to the underlying bones, muscles and tendons, resulting in skin grafting surgery to repair the bad tissue 2. Skin grafts are used to repair damaged skin, where a section of skin is removed from one area of the body, removed from a human donors body, or removed from an animal to a recipient site. This particular has its cons such as graft failure, rejection, and infections. Also, those who remove skin from a particular area of the person’s body have trauma and a wound at the site, which can sometimes be large if the patient needs a large section of the body to be replaced. This could cause a lot of pain, discomfort and call for a longer healing time. 4 Although skin grafts can ensure a perfect match to a human, they are extremely difficult and painful to endure.
There have recently been several new technologies that are not as invasive, such as a microfluidic device, and alginate gel made from seaweed. The microfluidic device allows for the materials and cells to be combined into a biopolymer sheet to accomodate stem cell areas and act as a skin subsititute uoft. Alginate gel is a easy method of trapping stem cells into a seaweed plaster and using it to heal wounds. 6