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Lab-Grown Skin can be Used for Drug and Cosmetic Testing

Update Date: Apr 26, 2014 10:51 AM EDT

Advances in technology and science have made it possible for experts to recreate organs and other body parts in the lab. In one of the latest projects, an international team headed by scientists from King's College London has created a layer of human skin by using stem cells. The researchers believe that the lab-grown skin can potentially replace animal testing.

According to the scientists, the skin they created is different from other lab-grown skin models that have been created in the past because of the permeable barrier. For this study, the researchers had used pluripotent stem cells to help create an epidermis that mimics real human skin. The epidermis, which is the outermost layer of the skin, acts as a protective barrier that prevents moisture from leaving and microbes from entering.

Pluripotent stem cells are unique in that they can grow in multiple ways and take on different functions. The researchers used these cells to create an unlimited supply of skin cells, called keratinoctyes. The team had exposed the skin cells to varying degrees of humidities and then formed them into a layer with an end result that resembled the barrier of human skin. When biopsies were taken of the keratinocytes, the researchers found that these cells were not significantly different in terms of function and structure when compared to the cells taken from normal human skin.

"This is a new and suitable model that can be used for testing new drugs and cosmetics and can replace animal models," Lead researcher Dr. Dusko Ilic, of King's College London, told BBC News. "It is cheap, it is easy to scale up and it is reproducible."

Not only can this lab-grown skin be used for drug and cosmetic testing, the researchers believe that it can help create new treatments for different skin conditions. Researcher Dr. Theodora Mauro stated that they could potentially observe how the barrier becomes jeopardized or impaired, which could help them find better treatments.

"This new human skin model is superior scientifically to killing rabbits, pigs, rats or other animals for their skin and hoping that research findings will be applicable to people - which they often aren't, due to species differences in skin permeability, immunology, and other factors," Research and toxicology director Troy Seidle said.

The study was published in Stem Cell Reports.

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