Our skin forms a barrier between our body and the external environment, keeping water in, and germs and toxins out. Until recently, artificial skins hadn’t been able to recreate this kind of functional barricade, which limited their usefulness. Now, researchers have found a way to grow an artificial version of the skin’s outermost layer – the epidermis – from stem cells. This lab-grown epidermis has the same barrier properties as natural human skin, meaning that it can be used to study diseases that affect this protective layer, improving our understanding of how these diseases affect the skin and how we can treat them. Because the new stem cell epidermis can be grown in large quantities, it could also be used to test drugs and cosmetics. This would not only reduce our reliance on animal testing, but would also reduce costs.
Written by Cathleen O'Grady
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