In a bid to create new ways to avoid testing on animals, L’Oréal is using 3D printing technology for lab-based human skin testing
L’Oreal has just announced its partnership with Organovo, a bio-printing company. Why a bio-printing company you ask? To create human skin for product testing – Organovo’s work is ultimately to print working organs that can be implanted into humans, so skin for safe product testing is a lucrative, but small, part of what they can do.
Two steps on from testing on animals (now banned in the EU and L’Oreal) and one step on from donated skin samples from plastic surgery patients (L’Oreal’s Lyon-based lab has fed and grown five square metres of skin a year from surgeon’s samples since the Eighties reports Bloomberg) 3D skin is the way forward for safe and effective product testing says the French cosmetic company. “We’re the first beauty company Organovo has worked with,” says Guive Balooch, global vice president of L’Oreal’s tech incubator, proudly told Bloomberg.
If you, like us, couldn’t quite get your head around the idea of printed skin, this is the science in its most basic form. 3D bio-printer nozzles inject ‘bio ink’, within which living cells are suspended, into tiny cut-out shapes laid out on a flat surface or tray. Over time, the bio ink layers are added to. Slowly, the skin begins to take form (with the help of hydrogel, added into the mix) developing into a three-dimensional shape as cells fuse together forming tissue.
Companies including Organavo have so far used the technology to create blood vessels, liver tissue, broken bones, working organs and bespoke medical devices including stents and hearing aids.
Currently, L’Oréal uses around half the skin it produces a year, selling the other half (available in nine varieties, form age to ethnicity) to pharmaceutical companies and rivals in the cosmetics industry. (Bloomberg estimates that samples cost around €62/ £44 a go back in 2011). Now, together with Organovo’s technology, and its own hefty research and development budget (more than $1 billion annually, twice the industry standard) L’Oréal wants to speed up and automate skin production. The future of testing for beauty is automated skin deep.
This article was written by Katy Young from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.