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Scientists want to grow new human skin using freeze-dried jellyfish from Mexico

Anyone who has ever been stung by a jellyfish is probably in no rush to have them near their skin again. But investigators from the Scientific Research Center of Yucatán in Mexico think we’ve got it all wrong. They’ve discovered a particular species of jellyfish boasting a structure that’s surprisingly similar to human skin, which they believe could be used to create future scaffolds for healing damaged skin.

“The exciting thing about this project is the jellyfish that we chose to develop the dermal scaffolding looks like human skin — [both the] epidermis and dermis — in its structure and in its chemical composition,” Nayeli Rodríguez-Fuentes told Digital Trends. “In addition, the analysis we have performed, for now at the in vitro level, indicate that it is safe and biocompatible.”

Both natural and artificial tissue scaffolds can be used to help repair skin. They work by providing a scaffold onto which new skin cells can be attached, taken from a donor or the patient themselves. But in order to be accepted by the body and used to grow the necessary regenerative tissue, scaffolds must be the right kind of material; ideally as similar as possible to human skin. This species of jellyfish, called Cassiopea andromeda, fits the bill.

Jellyfish scaffold
Nayeli Rodriguez Fuentes

Rodríguez-Fuentes said the jellyfish scaffolding is initially intended for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers, a condition which is widely reported in Mexico. “However, its use is explored in various dermal lesions where skin loss occurs,” Rodríguez-Fuentes continued.

Rodríguez-Fuentes’s team started the project by collecting 100 of the jellyfish off the coast of the Yucatán peninsula. They separated the non-stinging top part of the jellyfish and then freeze-dried and bleached them. After this, they dehydrated the jellyfish using alcohol to create spongy, decellularized, structures. These would form the basis of the scaffold structures.

“We are [currently] working on the escalation of the process and on patent procedures,” Rodríguez-Fuentes said. “The final intention is to commercialize the product, for which the project is registered in NOBI-Southeast, a program that Mexico has implemented to generate technology-based scientific companies and attract investors who join the project.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Materials Science and Engineering: C.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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