Reconstruction of skin requires both the dermal and epidermal equivalent of the skin. We have developed a reconstructed skin composed of two compartments: (1) a dermal equivalent comprising an acellular dermal substrate populated by foreskin fibroblasts and (2) an epidermis regenerated from normal human keratinocytes seeded onto the dermal equivalent. The dermal substrate contains type I and III collagen and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) cross-linked by chitosan. Fibroblasts seeded into the porous structure of the dermal substrate provide a dermal equivalent suitable to support epidermal cells. Keratinocytes attach quickly, exhibit mitotic activity and form a continuous and stratified epidermis. After 2 weeks of culture, histological sections show a basal layer with cuboidal cells attached to the dermal equivalent and several suprabasal cell layers including the stratum corneum. Transmission electron microscopy revealed the cell membrane densification (hemidesmosomes) at the dermoepidermal junction; however, the lamina densa was found discontinuous at this stage. We noted the presence of lipid vesicles in spinous layer and keratohyalin granules in granular layer. The epidermal differentiation was complete terminal with the stratum corneum containing several layers of corneocytes filled with tonofilaments. Reconstructed skin, based on our chitosan-cross-linked collagen-GAG matrix is moφhologically equivalent to normal human skin and should thus provide a useful tool for in vitro toxicological studies as well as a suitable wound covering for the treatment of patients with severe burns.

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