While 3D printed skin is certainly helpful in terms of helping burn victims, it can also be used as a much less controversial alternative to animal testing. The JALA Group, a leading Chinese cosmetics company, announced a few months ago that it had successfully produced 3D bioprinted skin, using Asian skin cells, and now a research facility in Taiwan has developed bionic Chinese skin 3D printing technology.
Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), which has previously made the 3D printing headlines with its first metal 3D printer, a 3D printed metal saxophone, and a handheld, wireless mobile 3D scanner, is the major government-funded institute for Taiwanese technology. ITRI recently presented its 3D printed bionic skin technology at the 2017 BioTaiwan Exhibition.
In 2013, the European Union banned animal testing of cosmetics, which got other countries, including Taiwan, considering the ethics of this practice and following suit. But rather than being content to allow for human testing, ITRI developed bionic Chinese skin tissue that could be used to safely test out recipes of new cosmetic materials. 3D printed Caucasian skin wouldn’t do, as its structure and texture differs greatly from Asian skin.
ITRI calls its new bionic epidermal tissue product EPiTRI, which could help cosmetic manufacturers work on material and formula development that stays in line with international regulations and testing guidelines like OECD431 and OECD439. EPiTRI, which has been through strict testing at a multinational laboratory, can be applied in cosmetics for in vitro safety checks. It was derived from Chinese skin cells, and has layers similar to real human skin tissue, including the stratum corneum, followed by a granulosum layer, a stratum spinousum layer, and a basal layer at the bottom.
In addition, EPiTRI’s lipid profiling and barrier functions are a perfect match to real human skin, making it a great model for skin irritation tests and evaluations and epidermis corrosion assessments. Along with EPiTRI, the researchers have created Melano-EPiTRI, which contains malanocytes and is targeted for use with whitening and tanning products’ active ingredient development.
According to Lai Fengwen, the deputy director of ITRI’s Laser and Additive Manufacturing Technology Center (LAMC), the high-quality EPiTRI bionic skin is 3D printed using active biological tissue while maintaining an ambient temperature of 4°C, in order to maintain biological cell activity and solve the many issues that can crop up while printing with viscous materials.
Factors like air pollution, diet, surrounding environment, and sun exposure can all affect the characteristics of our skin, which features multiple cellular structures, so ITRI needed to be able to fabricate diverse skin replacements. Luckily, ITRI’s 3D printer features three print heads, which are all able to be configured to increase the diversity of the 3D printed bionic skin. EPiTRI is the first Taiwan-developed skin equivalent tissue that’s planning for eventual commercialization, and in addition to giving cosmetics companies a better testing alternative, it could also be valuable for other fields trying to stop the practice of animal testing, like pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers. Discuss in the 3D Printed Skin forum at 3DPB.com.[Sources: CTimes (translated), ITRI / Images: ITRI / Hat Tip: 3ders]