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L'Oreal Wants to 3-D Print Skin to Test Its Products

The beauty company is tapping the expertise of 3-D printed human tissue pioneer Organovo.

Organovo

The NovoGen MMX bioprinter from Organovo can produce living tissue samples. The company hopes it can make clinically viable partial organs in four to six years.

Chris Newmarker

L'Oreal USA, the largest subsidiary of the French multinational beauty company, is betting that 3-D printed skin is the type of potentially disruptive technology it might want to invest in.

Earlier this month, L'Oreal USA announced a partnership between its U.S.-based global technology incubator and tissue 3-D printing pioneer Organovo (San Diego).

The goal is to leverage Organovo's proprietary NovoGen bioprinting platform and L'Oreal's expertise in skin engineering to develop 3-D printed skin tissue for potential products, as well as advanced research.

"We developed our technology incubator to uncover disruptive innovations across industries that have the potential to transform the beauty business," Guive Balooch, global vice president of L'Oreal's technology incubator, said in a news release. 

"Organovo has broken new ground with 3-D bioprinting, an area that complements L'Oreal's pioneering work in the research and application of reconstructed skin for the past 30 years. Our partnership will not only bring about new advanced 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." 

3-D bioprinting makes a lot of sense as a tool to assemble human skin, which is the largest organ in the human body, says University of Louisville professor Stuart Williams, whose research team is also working on a skin substitute.

"A challenge faced by everyone attempting to assemble human skin is its complexity both in the number of different cell/tissue types involved (e.g. nerves, blood vessels, sweet glands, fat, muscle, hair follicles, keratinocytes) and getting all these complex structures oriented correctly in 3-D.  3-D bioprinting holds great promise to achieve this complexity and orientation, and the availability of artificial skin will dramatically accelerate the development of skin care products," Williams told Qmed via email. (Williams himself has the goal of creating a 3-D printed heart within a decade's time.)

While Organovo cofounder Gabor Forgacs initially envisioned the printing of whole organs when the company was founded in 2007, creating a fully functional 3-D printed organ remains elusive.

With its NovoGen MMX bioprinting platform, the company has been focused on creating tissue samples that can be used by pharmaceutical companies in toxicology tests of new drug candidates.  Organovo has successfully bioprinted lung, liver, skeletal muscle, cardiac, oncology (breast), blood vessel, bone, and nerve tissue. Its liver model is the furthest along, while its kidney model is next in line.

"We are excited to be partnering with L'Oreal, whose leadership in the beauty industry is rooted in scientific innovation and a deep commitment to research and development," said Keith Murphy, chairman and CEO at Organovo. "This partnership is a great next step to expand the applications of Organovo's 3-D bioprinting technology and to create value for both L'Oreal and Organovo by building new breakthroughs in skin modeling."

Refresh your medical device industry knowledge at MD&M East in New York City, June 9-11, 2015.

Chris Newmarker is senior editor of Qmed and MPMN. Follow him on Twitter at @newmarker.

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