Author(s): Supp DM, Supp AP, Bell SM, Boyce ST
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Abstract Cultured skin substitutes have been used as adjunctive therapies in the treatment of burns and chronic wounds, but they are limited by lack of a vascular plexus. This deficiency leads to greater time for vascularization compared with native skin autografts and contributes to graft failure. Genetic modification of cultured skin substitutes to enhance vascularization could hypothetically lead to improved wound healing. To address this hypothesis, human keratinocytes were genetically modified by transduction with a replication incompetent retrovirus to overexpress vascular endothelial growth factor, a specific and potent mitogen for endothelial cells. Cultured skin substitutes consisting of collagen-glycosaminoglycan substrates inoculated with human fibroblasts and either vascular endothelial growth factor-modified or control keratinocytes were prepared, and were cultured in vitro for 21 d. Northern blot analysis demonstrated enhanced expression of vascular endothelial growth factor mRNA in genetically modified keratinocytes and in cultured skin substitutes prepared with modified cells. Furthermore, the vascular endothelial growth factor-modified cultured skin substitutes secreted greatly elevated levels of vascular endothelial growth factor protein throughout the entire culture period. The bioactivity of vascular endothelial growth factor protein secreted by the genetically modified cultured skin substitutes was demonstrated using a microvascular endothelial cell growth assay. Vascular endothelial growth factor-modified and control cultured skin substitutes were grafted to full-thickness wounds on athymic mice, and elevated vascular endothelial growth factor mRNA expression was detected in the modified grafts for at least 2 wk after surgery. Vascular endothelial growth factor-modified grafts exhibited increased numbers of dermal blood vessels and decreased time to vascularization compared with controls. These results indicate that genetic modification of keratinocytes in cultured skin substitutes can lead to increased vascular endothelial growth factor expression, which could prospectively improve vascularization of cultured skin substitutes for wound healing applications.
This article was published in J Invest Dermatol
and referenced in Journal of Biotechnology & Biomaterials