Episkin: Growing Skin in the Lab
Though we may not like the idea, there's a good chance that we've all been the beneficiaries of animal testing at some point in our lives. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of cosmetics, chemicals and drugs where it is common for tens of thousands of various animals to undergo lab trials each and every year.
Yet help is on the way: a team of researchers at L'Orèal have just invented an artificial skin, dubbed "Episkin," that may soon take the place of all those beleaguered creatures in future trials. Grown from cells obtained from the top layer of pieces of skin, Episkin can be manipulated and adapted based on the tester's needs: it can be made to resemble older skin, can be made to tan and, by using donor cells from women of different ethnicities, can assess the efficiency of sunscreen for various skin tones.
It is expected to make a big splash once animal testing of cosmetics is banned across the EU in 2009. In addition, since another set of EU laws that will come into play in 2019 will require thousands more chemicals to be tested for skin irritability, companies are gearing up to find an alternative to human skin. And while it won't completely eliminate the need for animal testing — the food, drug and chemicals industries will still have use them by law — it will help spare many tens of thousands of animals from having to suffer through these trials.
See also: ::Plastic Heal Thyself: Materials Mimic Vascular Networks, ::Stella McCartney's New Skin "Care" Line, ::Earthtalk :: Animal Testing
Image courtesy of Akira Ohgaki via flickr