Cell therapy and tissue engineering in skin/integumentary applications

Disorders and conditions of the skin are a prevalent and, for the most part, non-acute area of healthcare. From burns, to ulcers and benign lesions, there is significant patient caseload globally that can be treated in physicians’ offices, outpatient centers and other non-acute care settings. Additionally, the cost of managing a number of chronic conditions of the skin (like decubitus or stasis ulcers) has created a strong need for technologies that accelerate healing. For this reason, tissue engineering technologies have demonstrated widespread acceptance in the clinical practice of wound management.


There are an estimated 1.1 million burn victims in the United States who could benefit from cell-based therapy. Researchers at the dermatology branch of the U.S. National Cancer Institute found that bioengineered skin cells can produce molecules that control blood pressure in mice. The treatment could have applications in hypertension therapy, but the bioengineered skin cells were first applied as grafts. The cells were altered by using a retrovirus to insert a gene into them. The researchers used a retrovirus with RNA that makes two proteins, one of which is a peptide that controls and lowers blood pressure, the other used as a marker. The end goal achieved by the scientists was to engineer a skin graft, graft it successfully and design the cells to create a product that gains access to the bloodstream in sufficient levels to have a biological effect.

Diabetic Ulcers

It is estimated that roughly 15% of diabetics will develop foot ulcers. Diabetic ulcers are the most common foot injuries leading to lower extremity amputation in the industrialized world. In fact, foot complications are the most frequent reason for hospitalization of diabetic patients, accounting for up to 25% of all diabetic admissions in the United States.

Various researchers ave been studying the use of stem cells in the healing of diabetic ulcers with some success. One group at the University of Bristol’s Bristol Heart Institute, led by Paolo Madeddu, professor of experimental cardiovascular medicine, showed that fetal stem cells appeared to be more therapeutically effective than adult stem cells in models of back leg ischemia. The fetal cells seemed to possess a better ability to multiply and to graft onto host tissue and to separate into other cell types to replace those in the damaged tissue.

Venous Ulcers

It is estimated that about 1% of the general population and 3.5% of those older than 65 years of age have venous ulcers, number that is increasing as the population ages. Further, the recurrence rate of venous ulcers is nearly 70%. Venous ulcers are typically located on the medial lower leg. They may be provoked by injury or pressure as from a plaster cast of ill-fitting boot. They may also be caused by bacterial infection. Recently, researchers have had some success treating venous ulcers with epidermal and bone marrow stem cells.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Cosmetic applications cell therapies could represent a market opportunity of more than $1 billion worldwide.
One application would be cosmetic (liposuction, breast augmentation, abdominoplasty, and facelifts) and dermatologic applications where accelerated healing and reduced scarring are desirable. One key patient concern in cosmetic surgical procedures is scarring.


Companies active in the application of cell/tissue engineering technologies for skin and integumentary conditions include:

3DM Inc., Advanced BioHealing, Advanced Medical Solutions PLC, Angioblast Systems, Inc., Angiotech Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Avita Medical Limited, Baxter International Inc., BeFutur Biotechnologies, Capstone Therapeutics, Cellerix SA, CellTran Ltd., Cook Group, Cytori Therapeutics Inc., Ethicon, Inc. (J&J), Fidia Advanced Biopolymers / Anika Therapeutics, Inc., Forticell Bioscience, Inc., Garnet BioTherapeutics, Genzyme Biosurgery, Glycotex, Inc., InnovaCell Biotechnologie GmbH, Johnson & Johnson Inc. (Ethicon, DePuy), Kensey Nash, LifeCell Inc. (Kinetic Concepts), Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation, Organogenesis Inc., Protein Polymer Technologies Inc., Smith & Nephew Ltd., Stem Cell Therapy International, Inc. / Histostem, Synovis Life Technologies, Inc., TEI Biosciences Inc., Tepha Inc.

Data is provided from MedMarket Diligence report #S520, “Tissue Engineering, Cell Therapy and Transplantation”, Report #S520.

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