ARTcut: Standardized injury of skin models for wound healing research

Interview with Dr. Jörn Probst, Management Healthcare, Fraunhofer ISC (Germany)

Comparative research models are indispensable in wound healing research to evaluate new treatments of chronic wounds. Consequently, studies need to exhibit equivalent basic prerequisites and be conducted on similar wounds. This is why a team of researchers is working on an automated process to place standardized wounds in skin models.


Photo: Jörn Probst

Dr. Jörn Probst; © Fraunhofer ISC

The ARTcut (artificial tissue cutter) – a development by the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research – is the result of this work. In this interview with, Dr. Jörn Probst explains how this device is able to improve wound healing research.

Dr. Probst, what idea is behind the ARTcut development?

Jörn Probst:
The big vision behind such in vitro skin models is the “3R principle“ by Russel and Burch. The Rs stand for replacement, reduction and refinement. The idea here is to reduce animal experiments to a minimum, to replace them or at least have stricter regulations. In addition, the quality of new treatments is meant to be analyzed using this device to find out more about their benefit.

How are chronic wounds simulated with the ARTcut?

The simulation of chronic wounds takes place beforehand, namely biochemically. The diseased skin is created by injecting so-called cytokines – those are proteins that regulate the growth and differentiation of cells – into the skin model. These in turn create a type of macrophage that is typical with chronic wounds. This is how you initially simulate a chronic wound. ARTcut provides a reproducible model of injured skin, which enables statistically relevant statements in the area of research and development. With the next generation of ARTcut, it is definitely conceivable that the model production is integrated into the equipment’s automatism.

How does the injury with ARTcut take place and what is the advantage of this device?

The wound in the skin model is created under sterile conditions with a drill. The first step is to position this drill on the surface of the skin model. The position is monitored with a light barrier. Then the drill starts to bore into the skin model with a specific rotation speed and penetration rate. The wound depth is predefined. It is important to monitor both parameters, so the wound model series is produced consistently. This is also the advantage of this device. If a research assistant or member of the technical staff injures such a skin model he or she does so in a very individual manner. The associate takes a scalpel and cuts the model. It is very important how deep and with how much force the cutting takes place. A human being is not able to do this in a reproducible manner if he or she needs to do this fifty times in a row. Ultimately, an identical type of injury of wound models is essential here.
Photo: device for standardized wounds

The device places standardized wounds in skin models with a drill; © K. Selsam-Geißler/Fraunhofer ISC

How are new therapeutic options subsequently being evaluated?

The therapeutic options consist of wound dressings, pharmaceutical ingredients or a combination of both. These are subsequently introduced in the wound model along with particulate diagnostic products with which you can track the wound healing process. These are luminescent nanoparticles equipped with specific antibodies on their surface that in turn bind with special biomarkers. Biomarkers are biomolecules that give evidence on the wound healing status. Currently our focus is on two biomarkers with different colors. Based on the measured color distribution, we can then draw conclusions on the wound healing process.

In what specific disease areas is ARTcut meant to be utilized?

Ultimately, ARTcut can be applied anywhere where reproducible models of injuries, those being a wound or a wound environment need to be simulated. The primary area of application is the chronic skin wound of course, since the discipline of tissue engineering is already very advanced in this area. This particularly pertains to diabetic foot syndrome, decubitus ulcer and ulcus cruris.

What’s next for ARTcut?

ARTcut was developed in cooperation with the newly founded “Fraunhofer Translation Center for Regenerative Medicine for Cancer and Musculoskeletal Disorders (German: Fraunhofer Translationszentrum Regenerative Therapien fuer Krebs und Muskuloskelettale Erkrankungen“) and the team of Professor Heike Walles. The Translation Center offers companies the chance to develop medical devices and cell-based therapies with an on-site network from concept to clinical testing and get assistance during the individual stages of product development. Medical tool building is one component in this to support and facilitate the development of a product. In the case of ARTcut, we want to globally support research studies on models of skin wounds, since we believe there is a great demand for this. The next-generation equipment that increasingly assumes more routine tasks such as the biochemical creation of chronic wounds or the administration of a therapeutic agent is scheduled to be developed in the future.
Foto: Melanie Günther; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann

The interview was conducted by Melanie Günther and translated from German by Elena O'Meara.