Lab-grown epidermis may offer cosmetic testing alternative

The epidermis has a functional permeability barrier that is similar to real skin

iPSC-derived keratinocytes

A team led by King’s College London and the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center (SFVAMC) have created what they say is the world’s first laboratory-grown epidermis. The team said the new epidermis has a functional permeability barrier that is similar to real skin and may provide a cost- effective alternative for testing drugs and cosmetics.

The study, which was published in the journal Stem Cell Reports, used human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) to produce an unlimited supply of pure keratinocytes – the predominant cell type in the outermost layer of skin – that closely match keratinocytes generated from human embryonic stem cells (hESC) and primary keratinocytes from skin biopsies. These keratinocytes were then used to manufacture 3D epidermal equivalents to build a functional permeability barrier.

“Our new method can be used to grow much greater quantities of lab-grown human epidermal equivalents, and thus could be scaled up for commercial testing of drugs and cosmetics,” said Dr Dusko Ilic, leader of the team at King’s College London. “Human epidermal equivalents representing different types of skin could also be grown, depending on the source of the stem cells used, and could thus be tailored to study a range of skin conditions and sensitivities in different populations.”