Skin grown in lab may replace animal testing

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UK scientists have revealed that skin grown in the laboratory may replace the use of animals in cosmetics and drug testing.

King’s College London has led a team which has grown a layer of human skin by using stem cells.

The researchers have stated that skin has been grown before with the use of stem cells, however this version is more like real skin because of its permeable barrier.

They state that it offers a more cost-effective option to cosmetic and drug testing on animals.

The epidermis, the outer layer of human skin, acts as a protective barrier that prevents microbes from entering and moisture from escaping.

Scientists have had success in growing epidermis from human skin cells which had been removed by biopsy, but the new research has gone one step further. It made use of reprogrammed skin cells. This offers a method of production for an unlimited supply of the main skin cell type found in the epidermis.

The skin cells were grown in an environment with low humidity which offered them a similar barrier to that of real skin.

The head researcher from King’s College London, Dr Dusko Ilic, stated that this is a cheap, easy, reproducible method that will eliminate the need for animals during drugs and cosmetic testing. He said that they would be able to use the same method to test new treatment methods for skin diseases.

Dr Theodora Mauro, one of the researchers, has said that it would aid in the study of skin conditions, such as eczema. She stated that this model could be used to study how the barrier of the skin develops normally, how it is impaired in the different diseases and how they can stimulate it to recover and repair.

The new research has been welcomed by the Humane Society International, which supports the protection of animals, including those used in laboratories.

Troy Seidle, Research and Toxicology Director, said that this new type of human skin is far superior scientifically to the killing of animals for their skins and hoping that the results of the research findings would be applicable to humans. He said that the research is often not applicable to humans because of the differences in immunology, skin permeability and many other factors.

Image Credit: Umberto Salvagnin

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