Lab Animals Rejoice: Scientists Make Artificial Skin for Tests

Yesterday was a good day for bunnies: Scientific American reported that researchers now have a new way of testing toxicity that doesn't involve adorable, helpless (and scientifically useful) animals. Instead, it involves lab-grown human skin.

It sounds like something out of science fiction—but at the same time it seems kind of weird that it hasn't been done yet, mainly because it has the potential to be very, very useful. We come into contact all day with things—from personal care products to household cleaners—and we don't know nearly enough as we need to about their safety. One of the big problems with toxicological testing has always been the fact that there's no ethical way to test chemicals on human subjects—and so scientists have relied on animal data.

But even if you set aside the moral concerns with using rats and rabbits, the fact is that they're not the same as us, which makes testing on them an inexact way of assessing the safety of a given chemical. (And boy are some of those chemicals unsafe.) What is perfectly okay on a rat may be an irritant in humans, and what may burn a rabbit may be benign to our skin because it's thicker.

As for the lab skin? Reports SciAm:

[It comes] from normal human skin cells, which are cultured in specialized media to form a three-dimensional reconstruction of the real thing ... [that] closely resembles intact human skin both structurally and biochemically. It consists of multiple layers of cells and has a stratum corneum, the dead layer of cells on the surface that provides a protective barrier. These properties make it amenable for use in toxicity testing.


Isn't that something? Of course, when it comes to testing the safety of chemicals, skin reactions are just a small part of it. Many chemicals, we now know, can penetrate the skin. Some, if they are small enough, can even get into cells and alter DNA.

So while this is a step in the right direction, it's not the end of the story. When chemicals are migrating to organs and accumulating in the body, we need much more than skin testing to know what's safe and what isn't.

As I joked on Twitter earlier—can they now figure out how to grow livers, brains, and entire endocrine systems too? Please? Thanks.

Image (cc) via Flickr user Captainsubtle


Some beauty pageants, like the Miss America competition, have done away with the swimsuit portions of the competitions, thus dipping their toes in the 21st century. Other aspects of beauty pageants remain stuck in the 1950s, and we're not even talking about the whole "judging women mostly on their looks" thing. One beauty pageant winner was disqualified for being a mom, as if you can't be beautiful after you've had a kid. Now she's trying to get the Miss World competition to update their rules.

Veronika Didusenko won the Miss Ukraine pageant in 2018. After four days, she was disqualified because pageant officials found out she was a mom to 5-year-old son Alex, and had been married. Didusenko said she had been aware of Miss World's rule barring mother from competing, but was encouraged to compete anyways by pageant organizers.

Keep Reading Show less

One mystery in our universe is a step closer to being solved. NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched last year to help scientists understand the sun. Now, it has returned its first findings. Four papers were published in the journal Nature detailing the findings of Parker's first two flybys. It's one small step for a solar probe, one giant leap for mankind.

It is astounding that we've advanced to the point where we've managed to build a probe capable of flying within 15 million miles from the surface of the sun, but here we are. Parker can withstand temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and travels at 430,000 miles per hour. It's the fastest human-made vehicle, and no other human-made object has been so close to the sun.

Keep Reading Show less
via Sportstreambest / Flickr

Since the mid '90s the phrase "God Forgives, Brothers Don't" has been part of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's football team's lexicon.

Over the past few years, the team has taken the field flying a black skull-and-crossbones flag with an acronym for the phrase, "GFBD" on the skull's upper lip. Supporters of the team also use it on social media as #GFBD.

Keep Reading Show less