University of Oregon researchers partner with L’Oréal to develop artificial skin

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Researchers at the University of Oregon have created new artificial skin with L’Oréal that more accurately mimics real human skin and could be used for future health advancements, the university announced Wednesday.

During their research — which was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials — the team developed the skin through a novel 3D printing technique invented by Paul Danton, an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.

With this new artificial skin model, the researchers said it could improve skincare product testing and heal damaged skin.

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In a blog post discussing the research, the university explained, “Creating an artificial skin isn’t as simple as growing cells in a petri dish,” because real skin has multiple layers with cells performing different functions that are supported by a network of proteins and other molecules.

To replicate this network, the researchers designed artificial skin with two layers separated by a membrane. They also created plastic scaffolds to mimic the cell’s support system with 3D printed threads — similar to a mesh material with threads thinner than a human hair.

The L’Oréal team grew cultured cells in the scaffolds to create the skin with different cell types growing in each layer, the researchers explained.

  • University of Oregon grows artificial skin with L’Oréal for medical advances
    University of Oregon Associate Professor Paul Dalton and Research Engineer Ievgenii Liashenko worked with L’Oréal to create a new model for 3D-printed artificial skin that could lead to future medical advances (University of Oregon.)
  • University of Oregon grows artificial skin with L’Oréal for medical advances
    A 3D printer makes extremely fine strands to create a new model for artificial skin as part of research led by the University of Oregon and L’Oréal (University of Oregon.)
  • University of Oregon grows artificial skin with L’Oréal for medical advances
    Researchers at the University of Oregon created new artificial skin with L’Oréal that more accurately mimics real human skin and could be used for future health advancements (University of Oregon.)

“Other attempts don’t have the same layering—it actually looks like real skin,” Dalton said.

The new skin can also be grown in 18 days — making it a viable option for commercial lab testing, the researchers said, noting previous scaffold models take 21-35 days to grow.

“This is the first known case of replicating quality skin tissue at full thickness, using different kinds of cells separated by a membrane,” Ievgenii Liashenko, a research engineer in Dalton’s lab, said.

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L’Oréal is currently using the artificial skin to test cosmetics and skincare products, but the research teams plan on exploring other possible uses for the scaffolding in skin tissue engineering – which could heal diabetic foot ulcers and could create skin grafts for burn patients.

Beyond skin health, the researchers said the scaffolds could support artificial blood vessels and structures to regrow damaged nerves.

“While we’ve made this big advance with the skin, the design of the scaffold is crucial and could be applied more broadly,” Dalton said. “There are so many diseases and injuries in the world that aren’t being solved, so having an extra tool to try to tackle these is really valuable.”

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