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L'Oreal switches to 3D printed skin for testing

The cosmetics firm will work with Organovo to print the test skin in an ethical way

Cosmetics firm L'Oreal and bio-engineering company Organovo will work together to produce 3D-printed skin in order to test products in an ethical manner.

The company currently grows 100,000, 0.5sqcm skin samples every year in a multitude of different ethnicities and at different age levels from skin donated by cosmetic surgery patients. This tissue is broken into cells and then fed and grown in an environment similar to the human body.

This new skin will be printed using Organovo's NovoGen Bioprinting Platform, which finds the key parts of the skin tissue and creates a specially formulated bio ink for it. The skin is built using vertical layer printing and can be produced much more quickly than the week required to make skin samples at present.

A L'Oreal spokesperson commented: "Our partnership will not only bring about new advanced in vitro methods for evaluating product safety and performance, but the potential for where this new field of technology and research can take us is boundless."

Although this method has great potential for medical skin applications - such as those for burns victims or severe wounds - its use in cosmetics was limited, some critics have claimed. 

Organovo said it has already managed to print a human liver using its "proprietary 3D bioprinting technology". It says on its website that the liver remained fully functional and stable for more than 40 days.

Alan Faulkner-Jones, a bioengineering research scientist at Heriot Watt university told the BBC: "It was unclear how liver-like the liver structures were. Skin is quite easy to print because it is a layered structure. The advantages for the cosmetics industry would be that it doesn't have to test products on animals and will get a better response from human skin."

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