Artificial Skin that Grows Hair Could End Cosmetics Testing on Animals

artificial skin robotics hair sweat
Stem cells taken from a mouse's gums were used to craft skin with hair follicles and sweat glands. Takashi Tsuji/ RIKEN

Artificial skin tissue with hair follicles and sweat glands has been grown under lab conditions by researchers in Japan.

A team of biomedical researchers from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) and the Tokyo University of Science, led by Takashi Tsuji, developed a method of growing 3D layers of skin.

The method, described in a new paper in the journal Science Advances, involves taking a DNA sample from the stem cells of a mouse's gums. When implanted in mice with immune system deficiencies, the skin generated was healthy and behaved normally.

Tsuji and his team believe the skin could be used to create skin grafts for burns victims, as well as to test drugs or cosmetic products on.

"Up until now, artificial skin development has been hampered by the fact that the skin lacked the important organs, such as hair follicles and exocrine glands, which allow the skin to play its important role in regulation," Tsuji said in a press release.

"With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue.

"We are coming ever closer to the dream of being able to recreate actual organs in the lab for transplantation, and also believe that tissue grown through this method could be used as an alternative to animal testing of chemicals."

The skin generating process has only been tested on mice so far and the researchers estimate it will be another 5-10 years before the same process is successfully used on humans.