This thread from human skin cells could be used to make implantable graft tissue

This thread is made from human skin cells. | Magnan et al., Acta Biomater

Researchers from Inserm de Bordeaux have designed a medical thread from human skin cells. It could notably be used to make implantable "human textiles" for tissue transplants and organ repairs.

"We can sew pockets, create tubes, valves and perforated membranes ," says Nicholas L'Heureux, who led the work of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Bordeaux. " With this thread, any textile approach is possible: knitting, braiding, weaving, even crochet".

Be aware that the synthetic materials used for stitches and scaffolds for growing cells for tissue transplantation can often trigger an immune response, causing inflammation that can complicate healing.

Surgeons can then use dissolvable materials to reduce this risk, but these are not suitable for reconstructing complex tissue if they fail prematurely.

Illustrations summarizing the manufacturing process and potential uses, ranging from simple suturing to the creation of vascularized graft tissue. Human skin cells are first cultivated in a special matrix and then cut into strips. The strips are then twisted together to create threads for different uses. Credits: N. L'Heureux / Inserm

A thread not targeted by the immune system

The human thread designed by Inserm researchers prevents this by remaining undetected by the immune system. The design builds on previous work by the L'Heureux team, which used human skin fibroblast cells to produce sheets of material that can be rolled into tubes to make artificial blood vessels.

To create the thread, the team cut these sheets into ribbons and twisted them to form strands. These were then intertwined to create wires of different mechanical strengths, which could be dried and wound up until they were used.

The human skin threads made are strong enough to be knotted together. Therefore, they could even be used for sutures. Credits: Magnan et al., Acta Biomater

To show its potential, the researchers seeded individual wires with different blood vessel cells and braided them together. They also used the thread as a suture for an injury to a rat, which healed in 14 days.

Optimized implantable graft tissue

Another experience involved a tailor-made loom in order to weave a solid and implantable textile tube. When it was transplanted into a sheep's artery, it had no leaks and allowed blood to flow normally. " With a textile approach, once the assembly is finished, it's ready to wear, " said L'Heureux.

“This intriguing investigation represents a first step towards mechanically solid constructions, on the appropriate scale, which will be discreetly integrated into the repair of the host and will even be part of it. A combination that has so far escaped the attention of bio-engineers,” says Jeffrey Ruberti, who studies collagen-based biomaterials at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.


Human Textiles: a cell-synthesized yarn as a truly “bio” material for tissue engineering applications.

Laure Magnana, Gaëlle Labruniea, Mathilde Fénelona, Nathalie Dusserrea, Marie-Pierre, FoulcbMickaël, Lafourcadeb, Isabelle, SvahncEtienne, Gontierc, Jaime H.Vélez V.d Todd N.McAllistere, NicolasL'Heureux

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