Jellyfish have had a wild time in the news lately. From being hugged by noodle-inspired robots to having their stinging “mucus grenades” revealed to the world. However, a recent study shows that these animals can do more than just sting unsuspecting humans, as researchers in Mexico found that jellyfish tissue could be used as a scaffold for healing skin.
Published online in Materials Science and Engineering, the research centered on an abundant jellyfish species, Cassiopea Andromeda, part of a family commonly referred to as “upside-down jellyfish.” Like several other marine organisms, these jellyfish have structures similar to that found in human skin tissue.
"Its structure and composition are similar to the first two layers of human skin (dermis and epidermis)," Nayeli Rodriguez-Fuentes, a researcher from the Materials Unit of the Scientific Research Center of Yucatan (CICY) and lead author of the study told IFLScience. The possibility of growing these jellyfish on farms without jeopardizing the species' status added to the teams' interest in exploring their potential in skin tissue engineering, Rodriguez-Fuentes continued.
Skin tissue scaffolds allow for the formation of new viable tissue, using skin cells from patients or donors, to repair damaged areas possibly from burn wounds, or surgery. As the skin cells are attached to the scaffold, the more similar in structure the scaffold material is to human skin the more likely the process will succeed. Currently, collagen extracted from pigs, cattle, horses, and marine sources have been explored as possible scaffolds. Instead of carrying out this process again in upside-down jellyfish, the team investigated their potential as a source of “natural scaffolds.”
To create these scaffolds, Rodriguez-Fuentes and her team freeze-dried the bell part of over 100 jellyfish in a salt solution. Hydrogen peroxide bleaching and water-rinsing followed, before the bell structure was dehydrated in alcohol.
This process was carried out in order to decellularize the structures, allowing skin cells to be grown onto the scaffold. In this case, the researchers removed around 70 percent of jellyfish DNA, enough for the structure to be deemed “cell-free,” whilst maintaining its physiochemical properties.
“Interestingly, the decellularization process does not affect the three-dimensional structure of the material,” the researchers wrote in their paper, “yielding porous scaffolds that bio-mimic the micro, macro and chemical composition of human skin.”
During tests skin fibroblasts, cells that generate connective tissue and help repair wounds, were seeded onto the scaffold over seven days. They showed good adhesion and proliferation on the jellyfish surface, indicating that this scaffold has legs (or rather tentacles) for use in skin tissue engineering.
"We are working with the in vivo evaluation of the scaffolding to later take it to the clinical phase and evaluate its effectiveness in patients," Rodriguez-Fuentes told IFLScience.