The Latest From The Labs: Human Skin

The FDA is about to approve commercial use of living tissue grown by two biotech outfits

In antiseptic rooms in Massachusetts and California, workers swathed in germ-free suits are carefully watching over high-tech tubs containing dissolvable proteins. Into these tubs, the workers add skin cells harvested from the foreskins of circumcised newborns. The cells are fed with nutrients and growth factors so they grow and multiply. After about three weeks, if all goes well, the workers can toast what they have created: living human skin--sheets of it that can be picked up, cut into pieces, and grafted onto victims of burns and chronic wounds. "It's a fantastic process," says Dr. C. Keith Bowering, a dermatologist at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, who has treated 12 patients with a lab-grown skin after conventional treatment failed to heal their chronic wounds.

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