Innovative therapies combining gene-corrected stem cells and the production of bioengineered tissues to treat epidermolysis bullosa are emerging. However, quantitative tests to measure the adhesion forces between two highly viscoelastic substrates such as those found in bilayered bioengineered skin are needed and are still lacking. The objective of this study was to develop a mechanical test to measure the dermal-epidermal adhesion strength of our bilayered tissue-engineered skin substitute (TES) produced with the self-assembly method. We developed a peel test, which allows the displacement of both skin layers in a T configuration, based on the ASTM International standard. A MATLAB program was written to process and analyze raw data. The experimental setup was tested by measuring the dermal-epidermal adhesion strength in TESs produced with normal or collagen VII-deficient cells. Our peel testing method allowed us to detect the impact of the absence of collagen VII in the dermal-epidermal adhesion strength of TESs and also to examine the progression of the dermal-epidermal adhesion strength in relation to culture time in normal TES. Impact statement This study describes a method for assessing the adhesion strength at the dermal-epidermal junction of individual tissue-engineered skin substitute (TES). An ASTM standardized protocol of peel testing was designed to measure this important mechanical property. Our innovative approach will serve as a quality control in the production, improvement, and application of TESs for the treatment of pathologies affecting the dermal-epidermal adhesion such as epidermolysis bullosa. Data presented contribute to research on the interfaces between biological substrates and provide a reference factor for the characterization of products derived from tissue engineering.
Keywords: adhesion strength; dermal–epidermal junction; mechanical force; regenerative medicine; tissue engineering.