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Regulation of pigmentation in cultured skin substitutes by cytometric sorting of melanocytes and keratinocytes.

  • Swope, V B
  • Supp, A P
  • Cornelius, J R
  • Babcock, G F
  • Boyce, S T
Published Article
The Journal of investigative dermatology
Publication Date
Sep 01, 1997
PMID: 9284092


Unpredictable pigmentation in cultured skin substitutes (CSS) is an anatomic deficiency after wound treatment and can require years to normalize. Variable numbers of human melanocytes (HM) survive in cultures of human keratinocytes (HK) as demonstrated by focal areas of pigmentation in CSS after healing. The purposes of this study were to deplete HM from HK cultures and to regulate the numbers of HM contained in CSS. A highly pigmented HM cell strain was chosen for these studies to emphasize the differences in light scattering between HK and HM by flow cytometry. Cytometric gates were set with selective cultures of HM and HK and were used to sort a mixed population of HK + 4% HM. After sorting, CSS were prepared from human fibroblasts attached to collagen-glycosaminoglycan sponges combined with cells from the HK + 4% HM (pre-treatment control), the sorted HK (experimental), or sorted HK + 3% HM (post-treatment positive control) subpopulations and grafted to athymic mice. Grafted wounds were assessed for 6 wk by planimetry for area of pigment and by a Minolta Chromameter for color density and hue in situ. Histology and staining of HLA-ABC were performed at 6 wk. Data from percent pigmented area and chromameter measurements identified quantitative and statistically significant decreases in color of healed skin after flow cytometric separation of HK and HM. Therefore, a purified HK subpopulation depleted of HM was isolated by flow cytometry that generated healed skin with reduced pigmentation. These results suggest that HM can be selectively depleted from HK cultures and then added to cultured skin substitutes at specific densities to generate predictable pigmentation for improved function and cosmesis in healed wounds.

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