ONTD Political

Baby foreskins & a German skin factory could put an end to animal testing for cosmetics

5:58 pm - 12/23/2011
A research organization is growing human skin in the hope of using it to trial cosmetics and medicines, reducing the need for animal testing. The synthetic skin is made using cells from infant foreskins.

The idea of a "skin factory" may sound sinister, but that is exactly what scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart have created. Their so-called Hautfabrik grows tiny swatches of skin - not for skin grafts, but for testing consumer products.

The renowned institute is presenting their ground-breaking invention as an affordable and sustainable alternative to animal testing, which many consider unnecessarily cruel.

The skin factory is a machine measuring seven metres long, three metres high and three metres deep, sealed and heated to 37 degrees Celsius – the same temperature as inside people.

The machine is fitted with 500 boards, each with 24 tissue cultures growing on it in little tube formations. In each tube, extremely thin skin samples grow from cells, which robotic hands have painstakingly extracted from foreskins donated to the project. Scientists use enzymes to detach the very top layer of cells from the skin, along with connective tissue and pigment cells.

The foreskin used for the process is only taken from boys up to the age of four. “The older skin is, the worse the cells function,” explained Andreas Traube, an engineer at the institute's department of production technology and automation.

“It is also important that the cells we use are coming from a uniform source," said Traube. "This avoids discrepancies in the production of the new skin."

The equipment developed by the Fraunhofer team can extract between three to 10 million cells from a single foreskin. In the incubator these cells then multiply hundreds of times.

The brand new skin cells are mixed with collagen and connective tissue, which then becomes ‘proper’ skin, measuring up to five millimetres in thickness.
The whole process can take up to six weeks, but according to Traube, “We can’t use the machine to speed up the process; biology needs time to take its course.”

In a single month, the machine can produce around 5,000 skin samples. For now, these delicate creations remain untouched as the process is still being authorized by European authorities, who are examining the growths to see whether they are suitable to be used in testing.

But the process has been given the nod of approval by some key members of the Association of Research-based Pharmaceutical Companies (VFA).

“I think the idea is a good one,” said Rolf Hömke, VFA spokesman. “I believe cells from artificially cultivated skin are indeed comparable with real skin.”

“I do think it might take a few years to get up and running though,” warned Hömke. “There are complicated international safety standards, these procedures can’t just be changed overnight.”

At the moment only very small skin samples are being created. “It’s logical that we’d want to take the operation to a bigger scale,” said Traube.

He added that possible future applications for products from the Hautfabrik could be research into cancer, pigmentation diseases, allergic reactions and fungal infections.

The next step for the company is a little smaller though, as their sights are set on synthesizing a human cornea.

source: The Local
evilgmbethy 24th-Dec-2011 08:34 am (UTC)
but it's not like parents are circumcising their kids SOLELY to give to these researchers. This way instead of being tossed out, it can be used for progress. I really don't see a problem with that.
maenads_dance 24th-Dec-2011 09:21 am (UTC)
Yeah, I don't either - it's like saying it's wrong to use leftover embryos from IVF or something. You can make a case that infant circumcision is wrong, but if you accept that it's going to happen, wouldn't it be better to reduce harm to living, breathing organisms?

All this is pretty personal to me, as I own a beagle, and I know for a fact that beagles are used in a lot of medical and other research fields.

You can read more about lab beagles here.

Anyway, now that I've gone for the lowdown hit at your emotions, I'll make the argument that an infant foreskin has just as much importance as a clipped toenail or clipped hair - except in this case the infant foreskin can do some good.
evilgmbethy 24th-Dec-2011 09:25 am (UTC)
noooooooooooo, I own a beagle mix, I am not clicking! D:

but yeah, I made the same connection with stem cell research from embryos. Or even, if you want to go to clipped hair, it's no different from me donating all my hair to Locks of Love when I got my hair cut a few months ago. All of these things, hair, infant foreskin, embryos... why throw them away when they can be used to do some good? We're wasteful enough in this world.
romp 24th-Dec-2011 08:14 pm (UTC)
I hadn't realized that about beagles until I saw the video in this story last month. I wonder if they ever fully recover. Not that it matters--obviously their quality of life is MUCH better and they know love.
frelling_tralk 24th-Dec-2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
Aww yeah, I've heard that beagles are very popular in animal research because of how friendly and docile they are ):
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