Socially responsible artificial skin: Skin-equivalent functions almost like the real thing and does not need to be tested on animals

Credit: RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology
Credit: RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology
[S]kin provides a barrier and physical cushion that protects the body from the external environment. In addition to responding to external physical stimuli such as pressure and tension, the skin is constantly in a state of “tensional homeostasis” in which the cells near the outer layer of skin maintain a stable and steady tension through collagen fibers. This tension helps keep internal structures strong, yet flexible. When skin is cut from an organism, it contracts in the same direction in which collagen fibers, texture, and the hairline are aligned. While synthetic skin models have been developed as alternatives to testing animals when developing safe and functional skincare products, it is difficult to study the tension distribution in the body because of its complexity.

In collaboration with the ROHTO Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., the research team led by Takashi Tsuji at RIKEN BDR developed a human skin equivalent (HSE) that reproduces the tension balance of natural skin.

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Although the healthcare market is expected to grow to 5.25 trillion dollars within 10 years, social demands to reduce using animals, especially for skincare products and medicines, is increasing. “HSEs have crucial roles for scientific evidence-based skin health care and disease research that can help us reduce research in animals,” Tsuji says.

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