Artificial skin was developed in the mid-1980s by Dr. Howard Green of Harvard Medical School. Artificial skin is used to treat burn victims. Artificial skin is not synthetic skin. It is cultured skin. To make artificial skin cells are taken from a donor and cultured in petri dishes. After a period of time technicians will place the cultured skin cells on a biodegradable fiber. After some time the cells will continue to divide and fill in the holes in the biodegradable fiber and eventually the fiber will degrade leaving just skin cells.
Companies that produce artificial skin are very selective of the donors for the skin cells. Using adult skin cells would create problems because of telomeres. So they use the youngest skin possible, foreskin. Everyday thousands if not millions of foreskins are discarded so it is the perfect source of skin cells. One foreskin on average can produce 6 football fields of skin. This skin is mass-produced and shipped to hospitals and kept on hand for burn victims. Other simple organs such as bladders have been produced by essentially the same method.
Synthetic Skin was recently discovered in 2001 by a team from the University of Illinois. It employs a special type of plastic which contains a chemical which regenerates the plastic when it becomes cracked or scratched. This plastic could also be used to create synthetic organs which would heal when hurt. Synthetic skin is not commercially available yet.
While synthetic skin sounds promising, artificial skin is much better. Artificial skin has the ability to grow, is cheaper to produce, and heals fully. Synthetic skin cannot grow, at the present time is expensive to produce, and does not heal fully. Artificial skin has one problem that synthetic skin does not; artificial skin can develop cancer. This is a minor concern because the artificial skin can be removed and replaced with new non-cancerous skin.