Cell proliferation and differentiation in a model of human skin equivalent



Recent advances in culturing technology has permitted the production of organotypic models that may be referred to as human skin equivalents (HSE). We have studied histochemical, ultrastructural, and kinetic aspects of an HSE composed by an epidermal equivalent and a dermal equivalent separated by a basement membrane. Only keratinocytes and fibroblasts were present in the epidermal and dermal equivalents, respectively; cells of other lineages were lacking. Keratinocyte stratification and differentiation seemed similar to natural skin. Evidence is shown that such an HSE may also release growth factors such as vascular endothelial growth factor that are believed to play a role in skin grafting. The distribution of cycling cells as well as the values of the growth fraction are comparable to those observed in natural skin. Although the absence of several cells populations that reside in natural skin is a remarkable feature of this HSE, the high levels of tissue organization and cell differentiation lead us to believe that such an HSE may be considered a candidate substitute of human skin in biological, pharmacologic, and clinical applications. Anat Rec 264:261–272, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.