Research Highlight

Stem cells from skin for burns treatment

doi:10.1038/nindia.2013.22 Published online 15 February 2013

Researchers have reported a method for deriving multipotent stem cells from skin tissue. These stem cells can become one of the several types of cells within a given organ, in this case skin. The study opens up the potential use of stem cells in treatment of burns and deep wounds without the need for cosmetic surgery.

"We took up research on skin stem cells after having seen too many dowry-related burn cases among females in our hospital," Kaiser Jamil one of the co-authors of the work told Nature India. "Cosmetic surgery for treating such cases requires artificial skin or skin from other parts of the body. So we wanted to see if we can isolate live human skin stem cells and use them as skin grafts instead," Jamil said.

Although skin contains a number of stem cell repositories, their characterisation has been hindered by a lack of specific markers. In their investigation, the researchers used as main stem cell marker a 'transmembrane' protein called CD133 also known as Prominin-1.

As a source of stem cells, the researchers used samples of foreskin surgically removed after circumcision from boys below 7 years. Epidermal cells from the skin samples were isolated by mechanical and enzymatic methods. The cell suspension was centrifuged and used for cell counting and viability before sorting them using what is known Magnetic Activated Cell Sorting or MACS technology.

These cells expressed the genes OCT4, SOX2 Notch-2 and K19 — characteristic signatures of embryonic stem cells. The researchers concluded that the studies were the first to reveal the "pluripotent or multipotent" nature of CD133 positive skin stem cells.

The findings open up avenues for new uses of the stem cells for direct cell seeding in wound healing, surgical suturing and drug screening, they say.

The authors of this work are from: Bhagwan Mahavir Medical Research Center, Osmania University and Nizams Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, India.


  1. Balaji, A. B. et al. Pluripotent lineage of CD133 stem cells isolated from human skin samples. Indian J. Exp. Biol. 51, 107-115 (2013) Article