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P&G Funds Project To 3-D Print Human Skin

Bioprinting: Firm hopes artificial skin tissue will replace testing of many of its products on animals

by Alex Scott
June 1, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 22

Photo of a researcher working with L’Oreal’s current skin cell technology, which is based on skin patches grown from cells donated by plastic surgery patients.
Credit: L’Oreal
Cosmetics and other firms hope to use 3-D printing of skin for product testing. Shown is L’Oréal’s skin-farming operation.

Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest producer of household products, will help fund a five-year research project to develop a commercial process for making three-dimensional printed skin tissue. P&G wants to be able to test the efficacy and toxicity of its new products, including those for beauty care, on artificial skin rather than animals.

The P&G research project is in association with the Singaporean government’s Agency for Science, Technology & Research (A*STAR). In the past week, A*STAR has invited scientists from Singapore’s more than 25 research institutes to apply for grants associated with the project. P&G has not disclosed how much money it will spend on the skin project.

To create artificial skin, a 3-D printer would deliver skin cells and hydrogel, layer by vertical layer, into patterns that promote skin-tissue growth. The project is just one component of a $44 million, five-year research program between P&G and A*STAR designed to accelerate innovation at the household products giant. The program expands on a research collaboration between the two organizations that began in 2010.

P&G joins a handful of other consumer goods firms seeking to develop 3-D bioprinting systems to replace animal testing. Europe banned testing of cosmetics on animals in 2013, and countries elsewhere in the world are also pushing for alternative testing methods.

French cosmetics firm L’Oréal recently agreed to a tie-up with San Diego-based 3-D bioprinting firm Organovo to develop a process for making printed skin tissue. Organovo already offers printed liver tissue for use in drug toxicity testing.

At L’Oréal’s skin-farming operations in Lyon, France, technicians break down skin tissue from plastic surgery patients into cells. They then feed the cells nutrients until they grow into skin patches 0.5 cm across and up to 1 mm thick. L’Oréal hopes that 3-D printing will help it improve the precision, speed, and scale of its skin-farming activities.



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