Magnan et al., Acta Biomater / Elsevier (2020)

Scientists Create Yarn Made From Human Skin That Can Be Knitted Into Bodies

If you've ever needed a skin graft, or even something as basic as stitches, you probably realize that it's a challenge for doctors to make broken skin whole again.

But thanks to new research, the whole paradigm could soon change.

Let's talk about yarn.

Unsplash | Tara Evans

It might seem like a weird place to start this discussion, but think about it: yarn has some similarities with stitches, in that it can be used to piece things together again.

Researchers in France have developed a new type of "yarn".

In research published last month, the scientists unveiled what they're calling a "human textile". It takes the basic premise of yarn but adds an intriguing twist: it's made entirely out of human skin cells.

Here's what it looks like.

Magnan et al., Acta Biomater / Elsevier (2020)

The key here is that the textile is woven from the same skin cells as the person it's being stitched into. This means, crucially, that the host body will be more likely to accept it, considering it came from the body in the first place.

It holds a few advantages over the old ways.

Magnan et al., Acta Biomater / Elsevier (2020)

Tissue grafts and skin grafts are often used to replace a person's skin, but these carry the risk of an adverse immune response. By creating a textile out of a host patient's skin, this risk is mitigated.

How's it made?

Magnan et al., Acta Biomater / Elsevier (2020)

To make this "yarn", doctors must start with a "thread": thin sheets of skin cells that are then woven together. The finished product is flexible and pliable, with all sorts of potential applications.

Researchers are excited.

Magnan et al., Acta Biomater / Elsevier (2020)

"We can sew pouches, create tubes, valves and perforated membranes,’ lead researcher Nicholas L’Heureux told New Scientist. "With the yarn, any textile approach is feasible: knitting, braiding, weaving, even crocheting."

It's been tested on rats.

Magnan et al., Acta Biomater / Elsevier (2020)

The new procedure isn't quite ready to be tested on human patients yet, but it's shown promise in rats and sheep. Researchers are hopeful that they'll be able to use this on humans soon enough.

It could be a powerful tool in a doctor's arsenal.

If the trials go well, this "yarn" could soon replace skin transplants — and all the complications they entail — with a method that's versatile, relatively straightforward, and safe.

It'll be interesting to track their progress.

Magnan et al., Acta Biomater / Elsevier (2020)

"These human textiles offer a unique level of biocompatibility and represent a new generation of completely biological tissue-engineered products," wrote the researchers.

Let us know what you think of this procedure in the comments section!

h/t: New Scientist, Science Direct

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