A collagen-glycosaminoglycan matrix, impregnated with autologous keratinocytes, was applied as island grafts onto full-thickness porcine wounds to determine whether complete epidermal coverage could be achieved in a single grafting procedure. Twenty-four grafts with seeding densities ranging from 0 to 3,000,000 cells/cm2 were used to determine the kinetics of epidermal coverage. The time sequence of epidermal formation was then studied between days 14 and 28 using four additional grafts, each seeded with a density of 500,000 cells/cm2. Autologous keratinocytes proliferated as the collagen-glycosaminoglycan matrix was vascularized to form a confluent epidermis by 2 weeks in matrices seeded with at least 100,000 cells/cm2. The epidermal thickness and the number of keratinocyte cysts observed in the neodermis at 2 weeks increased linearly with the logarithm of the seeding density. Sequential analysis of neoepidermis showed the nascent epidermis to be hyperplastic, parakeratotic, and focally lacking in granular layer differentiation at 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, it underwent normal maturation and differentiation. Irrespective of seeding density at 2 weeks the collagen- glycosaminoglycan matrix was well vascularized, contained a dense cellular infiltrate, and was almost completely degraded. These studies demonstrate that seeded keratinocytes proliferate and differentiate to form a confluent epidermis by 2 weeks in matrices seeded with at least 100,000 cells/cm2.
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