Vitamin C regulates keratinocyte viability, epidermal barrier, and basement membrane in vitro, and reduces wound contraction after grafting of cultured skin substitutes

J Invest Dermatol. 2002 Apr;118(4):565-72. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1747.2002.01717.x.


Cultured skin substitutes have become useful as adjunctive treatments for excised, full-thickness burns, but no skin substitutes have the anatomy and physiology of native skin. Hypothetically, deficiencies of structure and function may result, in part, from nutritional deficiencies in culture media. To address this hypothesis, vitamin C was titrated at 0.0, 0.01, 0.1, and 1.0 mM in a cultured skin substitute model on filter inserts. Cultured skin substitute inserts were evaluated at 2 and 5 wk for viability by incorporation of 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) and by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) conversion. Subsequently, cultured skin substitute grafts consisting of cultured human keratinocytes and fibroblasts attached to collagen-glycosaminoglycan substrates were incubated for 5 wk in media containing 0.0 mM or 0.1 mM vitamin C, and then grafted to athymic mice. Cultured skin substitutes (n = 3 per group) were evaluated in vitro at 2 wk of incubation for collagen IV, collagen VII, and laminin 5, and through 5 wk for epidermal barrier by surface electrical capacitance. Cultured skin substitutes were grafted to full-thickness wounds in athymic mice (n = 8 per group), evaluated for surface electrical capacitance through 6 wk, and scored for percentage original wound area through 8 wk and for HLA-ABC-positive wounds at 8 wk after grafting. The data show that incubation of cultured skin substitutes in medium containing vitamin C results in greater viability (higher BrdU and MTT), more complete basement membrane development at 2 wk, and better epidermal barrier (lower surface electrical capacitance) at 5 wk in vitro. After grafting, cultured skin substitutes with vitamin C developed functional epidermal barrier earlier, had less wound contraction, and had more HLA-positive wounds at 8 wk than without vitamin C. These results suggest that incubation of cultured skin substitutes in medium containing vitamin C extends cellular viability, promotes formation of epidermal barrier in vitro, and promotes engraftment. Improved anatomy and physiology of cultured skin substitutes that result from nutritional factors in culture media may be expected to improve efficacy in treatment of full-thickness skin wounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Basement Membrane / cytology
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Culture Media / pharmacology
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • Electric Capacitance
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Keratinocytes / cytology*
  • Keratinocytes / drug effects
  • Keratinocytes / transplantation*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Skin / injuries
  • Skin Transplantation
  • Skin, Artificial*
  • Wound Healing / drug effects


  • Antioxidants
  • Culture Media
  • DNA
  • Ascorbic Acid