It has always been a discordant note: the scientific world is still forced to carry out experiments on animals for consumer safety. An important part of research must work more and more towards solutions that bring less suffering, indeed zero, and more respect for animal life. For this reason, I greet with joy the recent study by the University of São Paulo which presents an extraordinary innovation: an artificial skin obtained from 3D bio printers. It can replace our animal friends in product tests.
Artificial leather and Bio 3D printers: they are here to stay
Bio-printing is a fairly recent technology, but it is very important that researchers immediately undertake to verify its performance against those involving "traditional models" on which to carry out tests. And this research, published in Bioprinting (I link it to you here) is the perfect opportunity to talk about it.
Artificial leather is increasingly seen as a viable (and ethical!) alternative to animal testing. The technology of 3D bio printers will be able to play a fundamental role in this transformation, becoming a crucial tool for the creation of skin models. And what leather: it will be possible to obtain it with precise parameters and characteristics, allowing tests to also be extended to products designed for categories of people not adequately represented until now.
Artificial leather: a faithful copy of the original
For artificial leather to effectively replace natural leather, it must comply with some specific elements. First, it must have a layered structure with four layers, just like the human epidermis. This structure acts as a selective barrier, protecting the skin from chemicals such as pollutants and topical products, and from physical stresses such as sunlight, while also retaining moisture.
Researchers tested this skin 'barrier' made from bio 3D printers to see if it could block irritating cleansers. They exposed her to a solution of sodium dodecyl sulfate at different concentrations for 18 hours. Not only that: they also applied a huge range of creams and substances to evaluate the response. And the results?
A surprising answer
Bio 3D printers produced skin that responded excellently, successfully distinguishing between irritants and non-irritants.
This discovery has led researchers to declare that bioprinted leather can replace the Draize test, a current method of testing for toxicity which today involves the direct application of substances to the skin of rabbits.
The team of researchers wants to go further by designing increasingly complex bio-printed skin models comprising epidermis, dermis and hypodermis with representative human skin cells. This more realistic model will allow for even more rigorous safety and efficacy testing of products, and far fewer animals being used. It's only the beginning.
Bio 3D printers, a future without animal suffering. And not only.
More and more consumers are choosing products that do not involve the use of animals. The market has already begun to intercept this need and offers more and more alternatives (both products and foods) without animal derivatives, such as a "vegan" leather or dairy products of only vegetable origin.
Bio 3D printers, as mentioned, are taking their first steps: but they are doing it in the right direction. That of finally making the suffering we inflict on animals obsolete in order to obtain results in medical and commodity research.
However, bioprinting research is not just an ethical alternative to animal testing. It could have huge implications not only for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, but also for regenerative medicine. In fact, 3D bioprinters could make it possible to produce customized tissues for reconstructive surgery or for the treatment of burns. Furthermore, it could help in the understanding of skin diseases and in the experimentation of new therapies.
In summary, it is a technology capable of shifting the boundaries of our understanding of the human body, offering new opportunities for treatment and care.