While animal testing was been banned by the European Union in 2009, followed by a ban on the sale of animal-tested products in 2013, other areas of the world have been slow to follow suit. But thanks to a team of researchers in the United Kingdom, bunnies everywhere may soon be able to rest easy.
An international team led by King’s College London and the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center has grown a layer of human skin from stem cells, a breakthrough that could replace animals in drug and cosmetics testing.
While stem cells have been used to grow skin before, this new process produces a permeable barrier that is more like the outermost layer of real human skin, known as epidermis. Not only is this good news for animals who would be the subject of cruel testing, scientists say this is a cost-effective alternative to animal testing.
The Humane Society International’s research and toxicology director Troy Seidle was quoted in a BBC article about the study as saying, “This new human skin model is superior scientifically to killing rabbits, pigs, rats or other animals for their skin and hoping that research findings will be applicable to people, which they often aren’t, due to species differences in skin permeability, immunology, and other factors.”
According to the BBC, scientists have used biopsied human skin cells to grow epidermis for several years, but the international research team used reprogrammed skin cells that can produce an unlimited supply of the primary skin cell found in the epidermis. In addition, skin cells were grown in a low-humidity environment to provide a barrier similar to real skin. This permeable barrier is what makes this research so promising as a way to replace animal testing.
The research, which was published in the journal Stem Cell Reports, will provide the opportunity for medical researchers to study various skin diseases and test new treatments for a variety of skin conditions, such as eczema.
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