Lab-created skin and ‘organs-on-a-chip’

Credit: Harvard's Wyss Institute The Wyss Institute’s human organs-on-chips team has used the lung-on-a-chip (pictured) to study drug toxicity and potential new therapies.

Hoping to quell public outcry over the practice of animal testing, a number of companies are creating models of human skin in laboratories for use in experiments. Some researchers foresee work in the area leading to the creation of so-called “organs-on-a-chip.”

The French cosmetics company L’Oreal, the mother company of brands such as Lancome, The Body Shop, and Ralph Lauren Fragrances, has a new revenue source.

The product is called EpiSkin– a lab-created human epidermis model. The company’s laboratory produces more than 100,000 human skin samples every year. Most of the samples are 0.5 size.

L’Oreal researchers use EpiSkin to test the efficacy of the company’s products.

It’s part of an ongoing program to reduce and replace the use of live laboratory animals for tests and experiments. However, a recent CNBC article said that L’Oreal also sells the human skin model to pharmaceutical, chemical and household products companies, as well as other cosmetics makers.

L’Oreal is also working with Organo, of San Diego on a project that will 3-D bioprint hair follicles.

MatTek, an Ashland, Mass-based company founded in 1985, is probably L’Oreal’s largest competitor in the lab-created skin market. MatTek began marketing its EpiDerm product back in 1993.

MatTek, according to CNBC, produces about two adult humans’ worth of skin every week at its Massachusetts and Slovakia facilities.

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According to a MatTek scientist, the company is looking towards tissue models in a “cross-talk system” so that they can evaluate the effects of substances put on a skin.

This could eventually lead to, CNBC said, experiments in using EpiDerm for research on organs-on-a-chip.

An organs-on-a-chip is a plastic micro device about the size of a USB stick. They have microchannels and chambers filled with liquid and contain lab-cultured human cell types which mimic human body functions such as breathing, morphology, flow, and electric stimuli.

One of the most promising applications of the technology is in drug discovery and development. Although a recent report by Yole Development indicates that the organ-on-a-chip market was worth only $7.5 million in 2016, it could experience rapid growth of up to $60 million to $117 million by 2022.


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