Down-Regulation of MHC Class I Expression in Human Keratinocytes Using Viral Vectors Containing US11 Gene of Human Cytomegalovirus and Cultivation on Bovine Collagen-Elastin Matrix (Matriderm®): Potential Approach for an Immune-Privileged Skin Substitute
Skin transplantation, especially in burn patients, is still challenging because surgeons are faced with limited disposability of autologous donor side material. The in vitro culture of keratinocytes has become an important reconstructive option. However, only non-immunogenic allogenic keratinocytes offer the opportunity to develop a skin graft that can overcome rejection. The purpose of the study was to develop targeted gene modification of keratinocytes in order to reduce immunogenicity for the use as allogenic transplantable skin graft by decreasing the expression of MHC class I. To reduce MHC class I expression, viral vectors containing the US11 gene of human cytomegalovirus were generated and tested on their functionality using Western blotting, indirect immunofluorescence staining, and flow cytometry. Transfected keratinocytes were seeded on commercially available bovine collagen-elastin matrices and further cultured for histological and cell survival assays. Results showed transient down-regulation of MHC class I after 24 h post-transfection, with recovery of MHC class I expression after 48 h. Histological assessments showed long-term cell survival as well as histological patterns comparable to epidermal layers of healthy human skin. The data postulates the potential application of US11 transfected keratinocytes as an approach towards an immune-privileged skin substitute. Nevertheless, further studies and data are needed.