Characterization of A Three-Dimensional Organotypic Co-Culture Skin Model for Epidermal Differentiation of Rat Adipose-Derived Stem Cells

Document Type : Original Article


1 Cellular and Molecular Research Center, Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, Ahvaz, Iran;Department of Anatomical Sciences, School of Medicine, Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, Ahvaz, Iran

2 Targeted Drug Delivery Research Center, School of Pharmacy, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran

3 4Department of Medical Virology, School of Medicine, Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, Ahvaz, Iran


The organotypic co-culture is a well-known technique to examine cellular interactions and their roles in stem cell proliferation and differentiation. This study aims to evaluate the effects of dermal fibroblasts (DFs) on epidermal differentiation of adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) using a three-dimensional (3D) organotypic co- culture technique.
Materials and Methods
In this experimental research study, rat DFs and ASCs were isolated and cultured separately on electrospun polycaprolactone (PCL) matrices. The PCL matrices seeded by ASCs were superimposed on to the matrices seeded by DFs in order to create a 3D organotypic co-culture. In the control groups, PCL matrices seeded by ASCs were placed on matrices devoid of DFs. After 10 days, we assessed the expressions of keratinocyte-related genes by real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and expression of pan-cytokeratin protein by immunofluorescence in the differentiated keratinocyte-like cells from co- culture and control groups. Keratinocyte-like cell morphologies were also observed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM).
The early, intermediate, and terminal differentiation keratinocyte markers-Cytokeratin14, Filaggrin, and Involucrin significantly expressed in the co-culture groups com- pared to the control ones (P < 0.05). We observed pan-cytokeratin in keratinocyte-like cells of both groups by immunofluorescence. SEM observation of the co-culture groups showed that the differentiated keratinocyte-like cells developed a polygonal cobblestone shape, considered characteristic of keratinocytes.
The 3D organotypic co-culture bilayered construct that consisted of DFs and ASCs was an effective technique for epidermal differentiation of ASCs. This co-culture might be useful for epidermal differentiation of stem cells for future applications in skin regeneration.