The first ever model of live skin with a full ecosystem of micro-organisms

Many long-established skin products, such as shampoos and soaps, contain harmful or ineffective ingredients because effective testing methods were unavailable when they were developed.

The first ever model of live skin with a full ecosystem of micro-organisms – created at the University of Leeds – has the potential to help develop dozens of new products and change the ingredients of many household names.

Skin Research Centre director Dr Richard Bojar said the new tests would unlock product development which stalled as long as 40 years ago.

“Many microbial compounds used in products for acne, eczema, dandruff, and so on are very old,” he said. “Manufacturers were not able to test them accurately when they were created and now they are facing very large investments to develop new ones.

“A colonised skin equivalent model will provide researchers with a valuable screening tool allowing them to shortcut the development process. This will lead to more innovation in product development and will enable many household names to reformulate their products using modern ingredients.”

Skin equivalents have been used for some time and colonisation by single microbial species has been achieved, but the accurate modelling of a full skin ecosystem is a first.

The best model for testing products for use on humans is human skin, using volunteers or patients, but this limits testing to products which have been thoroughly safety-tested. The new model will make innovation much cheaper.

Healthy human skin supports a substantial microbial community which helps to protect us from infection and is essential for good skin health. The structure of human skin is unique in the animal kingdom so no predictive animal models have ever been available.

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