Membrane in a minute: Singapore scientists produce in-vitro human skin

Science

A view of lab-made human skin, made from skin cells and collagen, at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore November 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yiming Woo

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A piece of skin about the size of your thumbnail can be printed in less than a minute, scientists in Singapore say, a game-changing step for the future of non-animal testing for cosmetics and other products.

Made up of skin cells from donors and collagen, the in-vitro skin has the same chemical and biological properties as human skin, says John Koh, lab manager at start-up DeNova Sciences, which is collaborating with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University on the product.

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“We can see that the industry is moving towards animal-free testing,” Koh said.

“So we really want to offer a solution to testing on the skin without using animal or human skin.”

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The team has accelerated the manufacturing process by using a printing machine to put in precisely patterned layers that mimic human skin. Each tiny piece of skin takes less than a minute to print, which is the distinctive quality of this project.

The mixture is then incubated for about two weeks, as the skin cells multiply and gain opacity, turning into a whitish membrane.

The skin can be used to test the toxicity or irritation potential of a substance, and the penetrative qualities of active ingredients in products like cosmetics.

His team is now focusing on developing skin that includes Asian pigment cells to test the whitening effects of cosmetics and skincare products.

Reporting by Yiming Woo; Editing by Karishma Singh

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