Singapore researcher’s skin-on-chip device could reduce animal testing
By Rajaneesh K Gopinath
Scientists from Singapore’s prestigious A*STAR have developed a tiny device on which human skin cells could be grown and could be used for the testing of chemical and pharmaceutical compounds.
Animal testing forms an important cog in the wheel of major pharma and cosmetic industries. However, there is a growing displeasure to this practice with the European Union (EU) prohibiting animal testing for cosmetic products since the year 2004. Moreover, the marketing of all animal-tested cosmetics has been banned since 2013. Recently, members of the European parliament have also urged to launch a diplomatic drive on the worldwide ban of this practice by 2023. Therefore, there is a growing necessity to develop reliable alternatives. Three-dimensional (3D) human skin equivalents (SEs) have the potential to replace animal testing since they could mimic the human skin in various ways including cellular organization and metabolic capacity among others. However, they have many limitations such as a weak skin barrier function which results in poor reproducibility.
At this juncture, a team of Singaporean scientists have made a significant breakthrough in the field. Researchers from A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) and Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) have developed a novel microfluidic device on which human skin could be grown and used for testing. The device is made as tiny as a credit card and could potentially reduce or eventually replace animal testing. The researchers developed human SEs using a combination of fibrin-based dermal matrix and a biomimetic ‘organ-on-chip’ system which better mimicked the structure and function of a normal human skin. By using fibrin, a natural protein with non-contracting properties, they overcame the limitations of collagen-based skin SEs that usually shrink. The results were published in the May issue of the journal Materials Today.
On October 31st, the team was honored for their innovation with a Global 3Rs Award at the 69th National Meeting of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. The award was given by Innovation & Quality (IQ) Consortium and the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC International), a non-profit organization, for advancing the Refinement, Replacement or Reduction of animal use in scientific research.
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