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Published on : Apr 29, 2014

A team of researchers at the Kings College London has reportedly succeeded in developing the first ever lab-grown epidermis. The epidermis is the thin cell layer that constitutes the outermost covering of our skin. It serves as a shield against infections. 

The international team working on this project created the epidermis with the use of pluripotent stem cells. These cells are unique in that they can grow in versatile ways and fit varied body functions. These researchers opine that the latest breakthrough will pave the way for the use of a substitute lab model for testing cosmetics and drugs, helping eliminate the use of animals for such purposes. The lab-grown epidermis is also being touted as being a more-cost effective testing option as drug and cosmetic manufacturers will be able to carry out large-volume testing by using the ‘functional skin’. Researchers working on this project are confident that this lab-grown epidermis could aid in the development of new therapies for various skin disorders.

The team’s research head Dr Theodora Mauro said that the study gives researchers the ability to create any number of skin units that are genetically identical. These units can then be used to study various conditions that were hitherto impeded because of conditions such as atopic dermatitis, ichthyosis, and so on. Tissue engineers have been searching for several ways to create the epidermis layer in the laboratory complete with its protective barrier.

This study was recently published ‘Stem Cell Reports’, a medical journal. The efficacy of lab-grown samples were tested by carrying out biopsies which showed that there was no notable difference between keratinocytes created using stem cells and normal human skin layer.