Some functional parameters were identified and assessed in a tissue-engineered self-assembled skin substitute. This skin substitute was produced using fibroblasts and keratinocytes isolated from adult human skin. Keratinocytes were seeded on a dermal layer, composed of two fibroblast sheets cultured for 35 d. The epidermal cells formed a stratified and cornified epidermis and expressed differentiation markers, notably involucrin and transglutaminase. Interestingly and for the first time, the receptor for vitamin D3 was detected in all of the epidermal cell layers of the skin substitute, as it is reported for normal human skin. This observation suggests that keratinocytes retain key receptors during their differentiation in the skin model. A network of collagen fibers was observed by electron microscopy in the dermal layer of the model. In the dermis, collagen fibers remodeling and assembly is dependent on enzymes, notably prolyl-4-hydroxylase. For the first time in a skin construct, the expression of prolyl-4-hydroxylase was detected in dermal fibroblasts by in situ hybridization. The secretion of collage-nases by the cells seeded in our skin substitute was confirmed by zymography. We conclude that the self-assembly approach allows the maintenance of several functional activities of human skin cells in a skin model in vitro.
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Vol. 44 • No. 10