Scientists Find Jellyfish Could Give Humans New Skin

Jellyfish may soon help improve how people heal their wounds. Researchers in Mexico discovered that the animals could help create a new scaffold for repairing human skin.

The findings, published in the journal Materials Science and Engineering, suggest that abundant jellyfish species called Cassiopea andromeda, which is part of the “upside-down jellyfish” family, have special tissues that can also be used on humans. The jellyfish appeared to 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, lead study author and researcher from the Materials Unit of the Scientific Research Center of Yucatan (CICY), told IFLScience

Skin tissue scaffolds commonly use skin cells from human patients or donors. They mainly support the formation of new viable tissue in damaged areas, like burn wounds or after surgery.

Over the past years, scientists have been exploring collagen extracts from animals, including pigs, cattle, horses and marine species, to find new sources of scaffolds. The materials used to create the scaffold should have structures closely similar to human skin for the body to accept it. 

However, the upside-down jellyfish offers another benefit to repair human skin. Researchers said the animals have the potential as a source of “natural scaffolds.”

The team collected more than 100 jellyfish to create new scaffolds. They freeze-dried the bell part of the samples in a salt solution, added hydrogen peroxide bleaching and dehydrated the frozen bell structure in alcohol.

The method helps decellularize the structures, which will enable new skin cells to grow onto the scaffold. The researchers removed nearly 70 percent of jellyfish DNA from the frozen bell but maintained its physiochemical properties.

“Interestingly, the decellularization process does not affect the three-dimensional structure of the material … yielding porous scaffolds that bio-mimic the micro, macro and chemical composition of human skin,” the researchers said in their study. 

The team then tested the jellyfish-based scaffolds on skin fibroblasts. Results showed that the material allowed cells to create connective tissue and repair wounds. 

The scaffolds also appeared with good adhesion, which means the materials have a greater potential to be used for skin tissue engineering. The researcher said they could grow the jellyfish on farms to support future research and the development of new scaffolds for human skin repair. 

"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 said. 

Cassiopea Andromeda Researchers found that the jellyfish cassiopea andromeda could help create a new scaffold for repairing human skin. Prilfish/flickr