First Lab-Grown Epidermal Skin Could End Cosmetics Testing on Animals
Skin grown from biopsies would provide cheap, reliable tissues for researchers to test and study.
Researchers from King’s College in London and the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center (SFVAMC) have teamed to develop the first ever lab-grown epidermis with a functioning permeability barrier akin to human skin. While other scientists have been able to grow certain parts of the skin from embryonic skin cells, none before could produce the outermost layer responsible for keeping moisture in the body and toxins out.
Published in Stem Cell Reports, the study states that researchers were able to produce a conceivably unending supply of keratinocytes—the major cell type in the epidermal layer—from human pluripotent stem cells, and subsequently produce a three-dimensional, fully functional epidermis equivalent. Using this method, scientists believe they could produce an infinite line of skin cells from a single biopsy, allowing them to more easily research specific skin conditions.
“The ability to obtain an unlimited number of genetically identical units can be used to study a range of conditions where the skin's barrier is defective due to mutations in genes involved in skin barrier formation, such as ichthyosis (dry, flaky skin) or atopic dermatitis,” said Dr. Theodora Mauro, leader of the SFVAMC team.
“We can use this model to study how the skin barrier develops normally, how the barrier is impaired in different diseases and how we can stimulate its repair and recovery.”
The new process would also allow cosmetic companies to have a cheap supply of human skin that would be easier and more humane to work with than animals currently used for testing. Using lab-grown epidermal layers would provide more reliable feedback on how human skin would react to cosmetic products as well.
“Our new method can be used to grow much greater quantities of lab-grown human epidermal equivalents, and thus could be scaled up for commercial testing of drugs and cosmetics,” Dr. Dusko Ilic, leader of the King's College team. “Human epidermal equivalents representing different types of skin could also be grown, depending on the source of the stem cells used, and could thus be tailored to study a range of skin conditions and sensitivities in different populations.”