Their proof-of-concept study is published in Tissue Engineering Part A.
Using a combination of chemical nutrients and specialized surfaces for cell attachment, an hES cell line (H9) was directed to form two distinct specialized cell populations. The first population forms the surface layer (ectodermal, the precursor to epithelial tissue), while the second is found beneath the surface layer (mesenchymal).
Following the isolation and characterization of these cell populations, the researchers incorporated them into an engineered, three-dimensional tissue system where they were grown at an air-liquid interface to mimic their growth environment in the oral cavity. Within two weeks, tissues developed that were similar in structure to those constructed using mature cells derived from newborn skin, which are the current gold standard for tissue fabrication.
"Researchers have been seeking methods to grow skin-like tissues outside of the body using new sources of stem cells such as hESC, with the goal of advancing regenerative medicine as a new therapy to replace or repair damaged or diseased tissue. Little is known about how hESC can be developed into the multilayer tissues similar to those that line the gums, cheeks, lips, and other areas in the mouth. We used in vitro tissue engineering techniques to produce skin-like tissues that mimic the lining tissues found in the oral cavity," said Jonathan Garlick, DDS, PhD, professor of oral and maxillofacial pathology at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and a member of the cell, molecular&developmental biology program faculty at the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts.
"These engineered tissues are remarkably similar to their human counterparts and can be used to address major concerns facing the field of stem cell biology that are related to their clinical use. We can now use these engineered tissues as 'tissue surrogates' to begin to predict how stable and safe hESC-derived cells will be after therapeutic transplantation. Our goal is to produce functional tissues to treat oral and skin conditions, like the early stages of cancer and inflammatory disease, as well as to accelerate the healing of recalcitrant wounds."
This study was supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at the National Institutes of Health.
Article: Hewitt K, Shamis Y, Carlson M, Aberdam E, Aberdam D, and Garlick J. Tissue Engineering Part A. "Three-dimensional epithelial tissues generated from human embryonic stem cells." Published online July 6, 2009 in advance of print, doi: 10.1089/ten.tea.2009.0060