L’Oreal is partnering with bioprinting startup Organovo to engineer 3D printed skin tissue to test products and perform other advanced research, the companies announced in a joint statement this week.
Organovo previously partnered with Merck to print liver and kidney tissues. The company anticipates its kidney tissue will be ready for release in the second half of 2016.
L’Oreal has been producing skin samples from donated tissues since the 1980s to avoid animal testing, Bloomberg reported. But the cosmetics giant, which currently grows more than 100,000 skin samples per year, according to Bloomberg, wants more derma and intends to automate and help speed up production over the next five years with Organovo’s help.
“Research for the project will take place in Organovo’s labs and L’Oreal’s new California research center. L’Oreal will provide skin expertise and all the initial funding, while Organovo, which is already working with such companies as Merck to print liver and kidney tissues, will provide the technology,” the Bloomberg report said.
Both companies will retain rights to the tissue in different ways. L'Oreal uses about half of the skin samples it currently produces, available in nine varieties that span ages and ethnicities, while the other half is sold to pharmaceutical companies and others in the cosmetics industry, Bloomberg reported.
“Some of the biggest potential advantages are the speed of production as well as the level of precision that 3D printing can achieve,” Give Balooch, global vice president of L’Oreal’s technology incubator said in an email to the Washington Post. “L’Oreal’s focus right now is not to increase the quantity of the skin we produce but instead to continue to build on the accuracy and consistent replication of the skin engineering process.”
The Verge writes Organovo’s manufacturing process entails detecting essentially the key building blocks of the specified tissue and concocting a specialized “bio-ink” to begin building the tissue in vertical layers. By comparison, L’Oreal’s scientists break down skin tissue into basic cells, sustain those cells on a special diet, and grow them in a setting that imitates the human body taking about a week to form.