Jul 6, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers at Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) have used 3D printing to create Chinese skin. The synthetic skin could be used to test cosmetics, drugs, and medical equipment for the Chinese market.

In 2013, the European Union made the historic decision to ban the sale of cosmetics tested on animals. This meant that, with a few exceptions and technicalities, any non-medical beauty products and toiletries would have to be tested using other, less harmful means. That measure caused a shakeup in Europe, and ethically forward-thinking countries around the world have begun to follow suit.

As on 2016, Taiwan is one country to have also gone cruelty-free with its regulation on cosmetics testing, causing makeup and beauty companies to seek other means of testing their products. The ruling is great for animals, but it causes something of a headache for cosmetics companies. How do you fully test the safety of a product without animals?

In one sense, you can just use humans. After all, tests on human skin are the best indication of how a product will affect the skin of the general consumer. But there are obvious risks associated with human trials: harming your subjects, having to pay them to participate, and the looming specter of potential lawsuits when things go wrong.

For Taiwan’s ITRI, the solution is close to traditional human testing—but not quite. Researchers from the institute’s health and laser departments have joined forces to develop EPITRI, a stable and high-quality artificial epidermal tissue that can be used to test cosmetics products. ITRI has, in other words, created 3D printed artificial skin.

According to ITRI, its creation has the correct epidermal tissue, as well as differentiation between layers, including the basal layer, spine layer, granular layer, and cuticle. The 3D printed skin also has realistic barrier function and lipid composition. A test run of the skin has been produced, with around 85% of the output being suitable for testing.

ITRI says its 3D printed skin could be used to test new drugs and medical equipment as well as cosmetics. This would potentially make it an attractive proposition for several Chinese industries—Chinese specifically, because the 3D printed skin is supposed to effectively mimic the composition of Chinese skin.

Skin isn’t something you see 3D printed every day, but the Taiwan-based researchers say they used a high-precision 3D printing technology that can print bionic skin at a temperature of just 4°C.  The machine has three print heads, allowing operators to “diversify” the skin as it is being printed, while the temperature of the printer needs to be strictly controlled to ensure the survival of cells.

Li Chang Zhou, an engineer at ITRI’s laser center, said the EPITRI project was the first time that his department had used 3D printing for health and medical reasons. ITRI intends to build upon this research to explore new possibilities in tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and pharmaceuticals.

ITRI isn’t the only organization to create 3D printed skin for cosmetics testing. Earlier this year, Chinese company Jala Group claimed to have performed a similar feat.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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