The BUAV has welcomed the announcement that artificial skin, which could replace animals in drug and cosmetics testing, has been grown in the laboratory for the first time.
The researchers, from King’s College London in the UK and the University of California in the USA, used human stem cells to grow one centimetre-wide pieces of epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin), which have the same structural and physical properties as real skin. Until now, scientists have been unable to grow fully-functioning artificial skin in the laboratory and have had to rely on a limited supply of donated skin to develop suitable non-animal models for use in cosmetics and drug testing (i.e. reconstituted human skin models such as SkinEthic and EpiDerm).
The researchers have announced that as well as preventing the suffering and death of thousands of animals in laboratories, this promising new technique could speed up and improve drug and cosmetics testing and provide a new model to study skin conditions. Dr. Dusko Ilic, lead researcher from King’s College London, said “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. 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.”
Dr Katy Taylor, head of science at the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) said: "We welcome this new technique as a significant humane development to replacing cruel animal tests."
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