Cosmetics giant L’Oreal is partnering with medical research startup Organovo in order to 3D print human skin.
Organovo claims it is able to bioprint human tissue, which could eventually be used to create replacement organs. L’Oreal will use the partnership to test products before they go to market.
L’Oreal already grows its own skin samples using donations from plastic surgery patients, producing more than 100,000 0.5 cm² samples each year. It is not yet clear what advantages the 3D printed skin will bring to the company.
"Our partnership will not only bring about new advances in vitro methods for evaluating product safety and performance, but the potential for where this new field of technology and research can take us is boundless," the L’Oreal website explained.
According to the BBC, industry experts are sceptical that the collaboration will bring much benefit to L’Oreal.
"I think the science behind it - using 3D printing methods with human cells - sounds plausible," said Adam Friedmann, a consultant at Harley Street dermatology clinic. "I can understand why you would do it for severe burns or trauma but I have no idea what the cosmetic industry will do with it."
Organovo is one of the first businesses to offer commercially available 3D printed human tissue. Although experts have queried how accurate its 3D printed liver is, they accepted that printing skin should be an easier task due to its layered structure.
Although 3D printing has yet to really take off within the consumer market, larger scale commercial 3D printing could have a number of uses. There have been suggestions that it could be used to construct houses far quicker than traditional methods.
L’Oreal’s new partnership may also reduce the amount of animal testing required, and 3D printed skin could ultimately prove hugely beneficially for the medical industry.