A new scientific breakthrough may create some hope for the countless animals who are used for drug and cosmetic testing. The discovery could end the excruciating pain, suffering, and death of rabbits, monkeys, rats, dogs, cats and numerous other animals who go through intense physical and mental trauma in scientific laboratories.
Scientists from both King’s College London and the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center (SFVAMC) have made a major breakthrough in scientific research by successfully growing an epidermis from human stem cells in a laboratory. The epidermis is the layer of skin cells that protects the human body from dehydration, and also prevents harmful microbes from entering into the system.
Because of the complexity of an epidermis it was very difficult for scientists to replicate a human one in the lab, but their persistence was rewarded. They have managed to create an epidermis that is almost identical to human skin and behaves in the exact same way. According to researchers, the samples engineered in the lab showed no significant differences in structure, or function compared with real human skin samples.
“The ability to obtain an unlimited number of genetically identical units can be used to study a range of conditions where the skin’s barrier is defective due to mutations in genes involved in skin barrier formation, such as ichthyosis (dry, flaky skin) or atopic dermatitis. We can use this model to study how the skin barrier develops normally, how the barrier is impaired in different diseases and how we can stimulate its repair and recovery,” said Dr. Theodora Mauro, leader of the SFVAMC team, in a statement by King’s College London.
Since the nineteen-twenties, the United States and many other industrialized nations have used animals to test the safety and effectiveness of various drugs and cosmetics. In order to test the safety of vaccines and other drugs, animals are forced to swallow large amounts of certain chemicals to determine what constitutes a lethal dosage. Also, the Draize method, which is used for cosmetic testing, is still legal in over eighty countries. This is where chemicals are rubbed onto sections of shaved skin or dripped into the eyes of restrained test subjects, in order to test skin and eye irritations.
According to Humane Society International, China alone kills an estimated 300,000 animals a year for cosmetic testing.
Because the discovery is almost identical to human skin, scientists may no longer find a need to subject barbaric experiments on animals. “Our new method can be used to grow much greater quantities of lab-grown human epidermal equivalents, and thus could be scaled up for commercial testing of drugs and cosmetics,” said Dr. Dusko Ilic, leader of the team at King’s College London, in a statement. “Human epidermal equivalents representing different types of skin could also be grown, depending on the source of the stem cells used, and could thus be tailored to study a range of skin conditions and sensitivities in different populations,” he added.
Lets hope that this discovery proves to be good news for all the innocent victims that are subjected to horrific anguish in laboratories around the world, and puts an end to this unnecessary testing once and for all.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia: courtesy of Janet Stephens