Skin Bioengineering Laboratory

Skin Bioengineering Laboratory

Skin tissue laboratory group
2019 group L-R: Dr Mostafiz Rahman, Dr Shiva Akbarzadeh, A/Prof Heather Cleland, Dr Nicole Garcia, Dr Ilia Banakh

About us

Burns are a common traumatic injury, with approximately 1% of the population of Australia and New Zealand sustaining burns each year. Although many of these are minor, over 50% will affect daily life, many of which will have ongoing consequences. Severe burns are associated with considerable morbidity and mortality, and are among the most expensive traumatic injuries to treat and manage, entailing long periods of hospitalisation and rehabilitation and costly wound and scar treatment. The gold standard treatment for severe burns is split thickness skin grafts (STSGs). However, autografts are usually insufficient to cover burn wounds in one stage of grafting when the total body surface area involved exceeds 40% and donor sites become a limiting factor.

Our laboratory is uniquely positioned to address some of the challenges in burns treatment. As part of the Victorian Adult Burns Service, which provides the state wide service for all adult severely injured burn patients, we are committed to a bench to bedside model of research to provide our patients with lifesaving therapies.

Research Programmes

Cultured Epithelial Autograft (CEA)

Using CEA technique we are able to culture patients’ own keratinocytes from a small skin biopsy to obtain sheets of cultured epithelium on a fibrin carrier within 3 weeks in a clinical trial setting.

CEA: Stem and progenitor keratinocytes culture

Tissue-engineering a Human Skin Equivalent (HSE)

A major limitation of CEA sheets is that they require signals from the dermis in vivo to proliferate and to form functional skin upon grafting and cannot be used alone to treat deep burns . Our long term goal is to develop an autologous skin composite to replace both dermis and epidermis in a one stage procedure. We are currently conducting experiments to determine optimal methods for keratinocyte culture on commercially available ‘dermal’ scaffolds. HSEs are also tested in animal mouse models.

Optimising Adult Keratinocyte Growth Conditions

Adult keratinocytes have limited proliferative abilities in culture. Established techniques for CEA culture rely on murine fibroblasts as feeders and may not be ideal for clinical applications. We are examining alternative methods to optimize keratinocyte proliferation in culture using defined factors.

Identification/Isolation of Stem Cell population from Adult Skin

In vivo, epidermal proliferation occurs in the basal layer. Basal layer epidermal cells (mostly keratinocytes, shown below) can be divided into three subpopulations: keratinocyte stem cells (KSC), transit amplifying cells (TA), and cells committed to differentiation (ED) based on cell kinetics. We are interested in using known stem cell markers as well as novel methods to isolate human adult epithelial stem cells to enhance regeneration capacities of engineered skin.

Dr Shiva Akbarzadeh explains about the
lab's tissue engineering research. 3:00 min

Postgraduate study

Please contact Dr Shiva Akbarzadeh for further information about Honours and PhD projects and programs of study. Training in skin tissue engineering is also available for scientists and surgeons from developing countries.

Contact details: ph +61 3 9903 0616 email:

Recent publications

  • Wound healing after cultured epithelial autografting in patients with massive burn injury: A cohort study. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2018 Nov 13. pii: S1748-6815(18)30388-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2018.11.003. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Cheshire, P., Zhafira, A. Banakh, I., Herson, M., Cleland, H., Akbarzadeh S. Human Derived Feeder and Serum Supplement for a Xeno-free “Cultured Epithelial Autograft”. CTR (in press).
  • Akbarzadeh, S., Paul, M., Herson M., Lo C. H., Cleland, H. CEA as an Adjunct Treatment for Major Burns: A Phase I Study.  Cytotherapy 2017, 19 (5S): S26.
  • Cheshire, P., Herson, M., Cleland, H., Akbarzadeh, S. Artificial dermal templates: A comparative study of NovoSorbTM Biodegradable Temporising Matrix (BTM) and Integra® Dermal Regeneration Template (DRT). Burns 2016, 42 (5): 1088-1096.
  • Paul, M., Kaur, P., Herson, M., Cheshire, P. Cleland, H., Akbarzadeh, S. Use of clotted human plasma and aprotinin in skin tissue engineering - A novel approach to engineering composite skin on a porous scaffold. J. Tissue Engineering- Part C 2015.
  • Cleland H, Wasiak J, Dobson H, Paul M, Pratt G, Paul E, Herson M, Akbarzadeh S. Clinical application and viability of cryopreserved cadaveric skin allografts in severe burn: A retrospective analysis. Burns 2014; 40(1):61-66

Media profile

Giving to this Research

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