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Regener8 case study.

Isolation, Characterisation and Scale Up Culture of a new Dermal Cell subpopulation

for Wound Healing and Cell Therapies Collaboration between University of Durham and Clarinnis Bio Ltd

The Problem:

There is a major need for engineered skin for application in two areas:

• Clinical skin for therapeutic use, for example as a replacement tissue for acute wounds, such as burns, and for treating hard to heal chronic wounds, such as leg ulcers

• As a laboratory research tool, including application as an in vitro alternative to the use animals for toxicity testing.

Although scientists are currently able to engineer 3D human dermal, epidermal, and skin equivalents in vitro in the laboratory, these constructs lack additional features of fully functional skin, including appendages such as hair follicles and sweat glands, and most use the same generic skin cell types (fibroblasts and keratinocytes), which are not necessarily optimal for this purpose. The “holy grail” of skin equivalents that incorporate fully functional appendages is some way off. However the idea of using specific follicle cell subpopulations that have stem/progenitor cell, or other advantageous properties to enhance existing skin models is a realistic option.

The Technology:

Researchers at Durham University have developed a method for isolating specific sub-populations of cells from the skin and hair follicles and there is evidence that these cells have beneficial properties, which give them the potential to improve the physiological relevance of existing skin equivalent models, and enhance their wound healing capabilities in vivo. For these proprietary cells to be applied in a product for either clinical or research use, there is a need to significantly expand cell numbers starting from only small amounts of tissue. Working in collaboration with another company, the Durham team has had some success in scaling up the production of cells using a new hair follicle-derived (HFD) cell type. However, the isolation process remains technically challenging, labour intensive, and time consuming, which results in too high COGs for widespread clinical application. Recently, the team has discovered a new sub-population of dermal cells, which have similar properties to the HFD cells but which would be much simpler to isolate.

The Aims:

The team will apply their knowledge to optimise the cell isolation, enrichment and expansion process for the new sub-populations of hair follicle and dermal cells, and will demonstrate that they are suitable for generating 3D skin constructs in the laboratory.

The Team:

Prof Colin Jahoda, Professor in the School Of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham University, has over 30 years experience of research in the area of the developmental biology of embryonic and adult skin, and skin appendages. He aims not only to understand fundamental mechanisms in skin development but to apply this knowledge to investigative dermatology and possible therapeutic solutions using cell and tissue engineering.

Clarinnis Bio is developing skin regeneration products based on patented skin stem cell technology. The company’s proprietary dermal progenitor cells, together with their expertise in skin regeneration, forms a technology platform which is the basis of a range of products for clinical, cosmetic, and research applications.

For more information on Regener8 funded projects visit


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