British scientists have managed to grow artificial skin in a laboratory which has been successfully used to treat wounds in early clinical trials.
Researchers from Cambridge-based Intercytex, writing in the journal Regenerative Medicine, said six volunteers had skin removed from their arms and the areas were covered with the collagen product.
After 28 days, analysis showed that the grafts had grown and combined with the volunteers' own cells to close and heal the wound site.
It is now hoped the discovery will eventually replace conventional manufactured skin grafts, which can often degrade in a matter of weeks.
Intercytex founder Dr Paul Kemp said: "Intercytex intends to develop a range of cell-based implants that can regenerate lost tissue and this research is an important milestone in the pursuit of that objective.
"For regenerative medicine to fulfil its promise, scientists need to develop cellular implants that are accepted and integrated into the human body.
"So far this has proved elusive but this research shows, for the first time, that it can be achieved."
Dr Stephen Minger, from the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases at King's College London, added: "I think these results are a real breakthrough in the field of wound healing and regenerative medicine in general.
"To have an off-the-shelf skin replacement product that can be used in large numbers of patients will revolutionise the treatment of burned and skin-damaged patients."