Cultured epithelial autografts are an important adjunct in treating severely burned patients, greatly expanding the epidermis using a small donor site. Problems with cultured epithelial autografts include the time delay to culture cells to confluence and variable take on full-thickness wounds. Dermal allografts have been used as a substrate to improve the take of cultured epithelial autografts. This study examined the effect of a vascularized collagen-glycosaminoglycan matrix as a substrate for cultured epithelial autografts. The matrix was grafted onto 12 full-thickness wounds in Yorkshire pigs and allowed to vascularize for 10 days. The cultured epithelial autografts were applied over the vascularized collagen- glycosaminoglycan matrix (n = 12) or onto freshly excised full-thickness wounds (n = 10). Gross and histologic observations were made over a 3-week period. Gross observations at 7 days indicated cultured epithelial autografts to have nearly complete confluence when applied to wounds treated by collagen-glycosaminoglycan, whereas cultured epithelial autografts applied to freshly excised wounds did not take. Gross determination of epithelial confluence was verified by histologic analysis of randomly selected wounds. Histologic epithelial confluence of cultured epithelial autografts on collagen-glycosaminoglycan (98 ± 4 percent) was significantly greater than that on full-thickness wounds (4 ± 10 percent). Electron microscopy of the cultured epithelial autografts/collagen-glycosaminoglycan construct demonstrated anchoring fibrils at the dermal-epidermal junction at day 7. The neoepidermis of wounds treated by cultured epithelial autografts/collagen- glycosaminoglycan was hyperplastic at day 7 but developed a normal maturation sequence by 21 days. Results from this study suggest that vascularized collagen-glycosaminoglycan matrices produce a favorable substrate for cultured epithelial autografts and may improve cultured epithelial autografts take in burn patients.
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