Full-thickness skin loss is a challenging problem due to limited reconstructive options, demanding 75 million surgical procedures annually in the United States. Autologous skin grafting is the gold standard treatment, but results in donor-site morbidity and poor aesthetics. Numerous skin substitutes are available on the market to date, however, none truly functions as full-thickness skin due to lack of a vascular network. The creation of an autologous full-thickness skin analogue with a vascular pedicle would result in a paradigm shift in the management of wounds and in reconstruction of full-thickness skin defects. To create a clinically relevant foundation, we generated an acellular skin flap scaffold (SFS) with a perfusable vascular pedicle of clinically relevant size by perfusion decellularization of porcine fasciocutaneous flaps. We then analyzed the yielded SFS for mechanical properties, biocompatibility, and regenerative potential in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, we assessed the immunological response using an in vivo model. Finally, we recellularized the vascular compartment of an SFS and reconnected it to a recipient's blood supply to test for perfusability. Perfusion decellularization removed all cellular components with preservation of native extracellular matrix composition and architecture. Biaxial testing revealed preserved mechanical properties. Immunologic response and biocompatibility assessed via implantation and compared with native xenogenic skin and commercially available dermal substitutes revealed rapid neovascularization and complete tissue integration. Composition of infiltrating immune cells showed no evidence of allorejection and resembled the inflammatory phase of wound healing. Implantation into full-thickness skin defects demonstrated good tissue integration and skin regeneration without cicatrization. We have developed a protocol for the generation of an SFS of clinically relevant size, containing a vascular pedicle, which can be utilized for perfusion decellularization and, ultimately, anastomosis to the recipient vascular system after precellularization. The observed favorable immunological response and good tissue integration indicate the substantial regenerative potential of this platform.
Keywords: acellular matrices; decellularized; dermal matrix; skin scaffold.