German institute at the fore of skin research
Thursday 5 January 2012, 12:57PM
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, Germany, recently created the ‘Skin Factory’, and if that name doesn’t alarm you, the details of it probably will.
The ‘Skin Factory’ is an advanced piece of lab equipment designed to use foreskin taken from babies to grow patches of human skin used in the place of animals to test products, according to the German Herald.
A spokesman for the Institute said the ground breaking equipment may be able to eliminate animal testing altogether and, if developed on a larger scale, could be useful in developing treatments for cancer, pigmentation diseases, and certain skin allergies.
So how does the miracle machine work? Just to reiterate, it runs on baby foreskins. First, the foreskins are heated to roughly 37°C. Next, robotic hands meticulously extract cells from the now human body-temperature foreskins, all samples of which must come from boys aged four-and-under.
“The older the skin is, the worse the cells function,” Andreas Traube, an engineer at the institute, said.
Scientists then take the cells extracted from the foreskin and incubate them inside tubes, where they multiply hundreds of times. The cells are then mixed with collagen and connective tissue to create skin about 5 millimetres thick.
The whole process takes about six weeks.
European authorities have yet to authorise the Skin Factory for use in product testing. In the meantime, scientists are continuing to develop the machine and are producing skin at a rate of 5,000 samples per month.