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Apr 26, 2014 11:20 AM EDT

Stem Cell Skin Study Allows Scientists to Create Artificial Epidermis to Replace Animals in Drug and Cosmetic Studies

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In a new study from King's College London (KCL), scientists have found a way to create human skin in a laboratory to replace animals in drug and cosmetic studies.

According to BBC News, the scientists generated one layer of skin from stem cells. While this is not the first time the feat has been accomplished, the team said this is more life like because it can be permeated.

Aside from sparing animals from drug and cosmetic studies, the scientists found the stem cell skin to save money too. Using reprogrammed skin cells, they discovered a way to make an unlimited amount of cells used to make up an epidermis.

"This is a new and suitable model that can be used for testing new drugs and cosmetics and can replace animal models," study lead researcher Dr. Dusko Ilic, of KCL, told BBC News. "It is cheap, it is easy to scale up and it is reproducible."

Their work was published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

Troy Seidle, research and toxicology director at the Humane Society International, was encouraged by the study.

"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," he told BBC News.

Another study researcher, Dr. Theodora Mauro, said the new technique will also improve how skin conditions like eczema and ichthyosis, dry, flaky skin, are treated.

"The ability to obtain an unlimited number of genetically identical units can be used to study a range of conditions where the skin's barrier is defective due to mutations in genes involved in skin barrier formation, such as ichthyosis or atopic dermatitis," she said in a press release. "We can use this model to study how the skin barrier develops normally, how the barrier is impaired in different diseases and how we can stimulate its repair and recovery."

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