Building a three dimensional model of the skin

This research is seeking to reproduce a tissue engineered model of human skin within the laboratory environment.

The model is comprised of skin cells isolated from excess skin following surgery, these cells are then “reassembled” in the lab to produce a tissue which is representative of the human skin.

The traditional model of investigating the effects of toxic substances in the lab is to expose cultures of a single cell type to a toxicant and measure an outcome – such as the level of cell death or genetic damage.

However this method poses several problems since in the human body cells very rarely occur in association with only the same cell type, and they never occur growing on a plastic dish.

To avoid this situation animal models are often employed to investigate the effects of toxicant exposure, or model disease in a whole organism. However, humans are not animals and therefore any results gained from studies in mice and rats, although providing an insight to how a toxicant may affect a whole organism or how a disease may progress, rarely completely explain this effect in humans.

By building a model of the skin, this study will investigate in more detail the effect of environmental toxicants such as arsenic, heavy metals and radon gas on human skin and will hopefully lead to a greater understanding of how disease is initiated and progresses within the skin.