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Medicine Science

Synthetic Skin Could Replace Animal Subjects' 68

Posted by timothy
from the so-creamy-and-supple dept.
fangmcgee writes "Synthetic skins are now good enough to mimic animal skins in lab tests, according to research that will appear in the June 5 issue of the Journal of Applied Polymer Science. Bharat Bhushan, a professor at Ohio State University and Wei Tang, an engineer at China University of Mining and Technology used atomic force microscopes to observe the responses of pseudo and rat skins to a generic skin cream. The result? Even at a scale of 100 nanometers — or one-thousandth the width of a human hair — all the samples reacted in a similar fashion."
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Synthetic Skin Could Replace Animal Subjects'

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  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Friday April 22, 2011 @01:51AM (#35904034) Homepage

    ...when will they have synthetic leather shoes?

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      If they do make these, they should patent them. If only someone had a catchy name for these patented leather shoes.

    • by RockDoctor (15477)
      It may come as a surprise to you, but there are quite good synthetic leather substitutes on the market. Certainly the better (i.e., not the cheapest) ones are better in terms of durability, flexibility, moisture and odour transmission (outwards, generally) than cheap-and-nasty leather.

      If I still followed vegan principles (I still accept their logic ; I simply got ground down by the illegitimi), then I'd continue using them. The materials are perfectly good for town shoes, and I'd consider looking at them f

  • Pork Rinds (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sooner Boomer (96864) <sooner@boomr.gmail@com> on Friday April 22, 2011 @01:57AM (#35904066) Journal

    How does the new skin taste after being fried in lard and sprinkled with salt and spices? Have they come up with synthetic beer yet?

  • I'll even volunteer my own skin sample if we can get this party started! Why use animal skin when you can test several strains of real human skin, rather than approximate animal skin? There are few long term uses for manufactured animal skin, but thousands of commercial applications for human skin...

    • by bieber (998013)

      There are few long term uses for manufactured animal skin

      You may not be aware of this, but humans actually use animal skin at a massive rate in clothing, footwear, sporting goods, etc. "Leather," I believe they call it...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As a synthetic human, I am very disturbed by your headline.

    • There has been a fair bit of work on producing human skin tissues, mostly because of the demand from burn care and similar. My understanding is that getting the full structure right is(unsurprisingly) proving to be tricky and quite complex; but that there has been some progress in producing simpler membranes that are of use in dressing burns and protecting them while they heal.

      Long term, it sure would be nice to have something better than the rather horrid scarring that is the body's present healing mech
      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        There has been a fair bit of work on producing human skin tissues, mostly because of the demand from burn care and similar.

        "similar" meaning the porn-robot industry?

        Long term, it sure would be nice to have something better than the rather horrid scarring that is the body's present healing mechanism.

        It is, however, better than being dead, which was the previous option (I cite a classmate and former colleague whose face got melted in a car crash.)

    • by RDW (41497)

      'I'll even volunteer my own skin sample if we can get this party started! '

      I too would like to offer a skin sample from a 'donor'. Sounds like this technique will save me lots of work, and there'll be no more problems training it to put the lotion in the basket.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "There are few long term uses for manufactured animal skin, but thousands of commercial applications for human skin..."

      Cue the Fleshlight jokes.

    • FDA requires non-clinical trials (animals) before moving onto clinical trials (humans).
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Spending all day in the lab having researchers rubbing skin cream on me all day long. How much do I have to pay them to participate?

  • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Friday April 22, 2011 @02:37AM (#35904182) Journal

    I would have thought the obvious solution to the question of animal testing would be to require those who have a pecuniary interest in the business selling the cream to test the cream on themselves. They're humans with skin, aren't they? Deserving all the reward because they took all the risk, right?

    (Bah, capitalism's been self-contradictory ever since the invention of the limited company. Wouldn't it be cool if the worker with an interest in X could set up a little fund for X and if he goes into huge debt there he can just write off that area of interest with no consequence and carry on?)

    • by Ogi_UnixNut (916982) on Friday April 22, 2011 @03:58AM (#35904466) Homepage

      Heh, I always thought the obvious solution was to test on those most opposed to animal testing. Rather than protest, threaten, intimidate, cause destruction and generally be a major pest, they should volunteer themselves in place of the animals. After all, they care so much that they are willing to risk their lives, the skin trials would be nothing in comparison. It's a win/win situation!

      The animals don't get tested on, the labs get real human skin to test on (rather than using animal skin as an approximation), and the protesters succeed in their goal, with the added benefit of aiding the rest of humanity.

      • Rather than protest, threaten, intimidate, cause destruction and generally be a major pest

        That sentence reads like, "Rather than smoke marijuana, have a healthy relationship with someone a year below AoC, evade taxes and brutally murder babies, prisoners should...."

        they should volunteer themselves in place of the animals.

        Well, I certainly put my body where my mouth is. I've taken part in human medical trials in academic settings where the only payment is the chance to have a nice chat with a keen medical researcher about his work while you're lying back in the chair with a drip in your arm.

        I also choose soaps etc not tested on animals.

        As for the aesth

      • by fbartho (840012)

        Those most opposed are often complaining that the mortality/blindness/permanent disfiguration rate for makeup tests is fairly high. I can't imagine that we have enough human *volunteers* to test more than a few batches of early products before we run out of non-horribly disfigured mutants that would even count as slightly valid comparisons to non-damaged humans.

    • by MarkvW (1037596)

      Corporations get their money from two general sources: equity contributions and loans. Both of those contributors lose their investment when the corporation goes insolvent. These people know the risk of what they are getting into. They also have the opportunity to estimate the scope of what they don't know.

      The problem isn't the limited liability aspect of the corporation. Society needs that in order to build grand things (like railroads, canals, roads and other infrastructure). The problem is that peo

  • I know I'll be going senile any day now, but the title doesn't parse.
    • I know I'll be going senile any day now, but the title doesn't parse.

      Yep, today's the day! You're now senile. The second skin is implied. Here, I'll help you out if you'll just let me just stand on your lawn for a moment...

      Synthetic Skin Could Replace Animal Subjects'
      Note the correct apostrophe usage indicating a plural possessive.

      Synthetic Skin Could Replace Animal Subjects' [Skin]
      Synthetic Skin Could Be Used Instead of the Skin of Animal Subjects.

      It's not your fault, really; I'm sure all the years of being subjected to the Slashdot editors' incorrect usage of a

  • by oskarfasth (187750) on Friday April 22, 2011 @02:42AM (#35904198) Journal

    The headline is somewhat misleading, it should say: "Synthetic Skin Could Replace Animal Subjects IN COSMETICS TESTING, SPECIFICALLY DERMATOLOGICAL PRODUCTS". For medical applications we are very far from such a breakthrough, owing mostly to the immense complexity of large biological systems, such as a living animal or human being. For the vast majority of animal testing, this might at best result in a reduced need for small pieces of skin tissue for basic research in laboratory settings, which is hardly the problem anyway.

  • As a vegetarian.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wanax (46819) on Friday April 22, 2011 @02:51AM (#35904228)

    .. who works with primates... I do so because I'm convinced there is no other way of collecting data that is important to our health and understanding about how our minds work. Food.. there are other sources.. but neuronal data, we're limited. I'm a big fan of the Reduce, Refine, and Replace idea, and if this is confirmed it's a big step, for 2 R's, and that's exciting.

    • by dafing (753481)
      I hope you'll decide to be Vegan, and to extend your respect towards all other animals.

      I found Professor Gary Franciones website useful when I first become Vegan, http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/ [abolitionistapproach.com] as well as the many podcast shows out there, heads up, Coexisting is my own show, http://bit.ly/veganpodcastinfo [bit.ly]

      I can understand your belief that we *need* to "experiment" on other animals, I disagree with you very strongly, and I think we can both look forward to the day that nobody is hurt in the name o
      • Would you kill someone in self defense?

      • by Arterion (941661)

        If we didn't eat animals, all those cows, chickens, and pigs would never be alive in the first place.

        This is like saying we should stop sending food to starving nations because they'll just increase their birthrates, and just need more and more food. (Which is actually happening, btw.)

        • by dafing (753481)
          Hi Arterion,

          Such a life you give others, to live as property, tagged as such, in a dark shed, filled with cockroaches, life amongst cages and incandescent bulbs, thanks! :-)

          I dont believe we would use such an example in other situations, "yeah, we abused you every which way, we kill you at our whim, but cmon, damn, I mean, we made you live in the first place, you should be thanking us!"

          RE other nations, not at all, I'd say we should encourage contraception to reduce out of control birthrates, as we
          • by Arterion (941661)

            Humans treat other humans this way, too. Those with lots of power and wealth inevitably inflict such a life onto other humans. Even an individual of meager means in rich country might have some poor girl barely affording her food, yet working long hours in a textile factory, or the like. But why? Because the sweatshop job is better than the alternatives.

            Babies can die if they're not held. There is some biological imperative that requires a baby to be loved. Similarly, cows have a biological imperative to li

            • by dafing (753481)
              I'm trying to take your comment as genuine Arterion, although it is difficult.

              We kill some 56 Billion* other humans each and every year, for our pleasure and/or profit? I don't think so. I'm not thrilled on "sweatshops", however that is in no way similar to what we do to other animals, who have no choice whatsoever, who are indeed locked inside their confinements, be it by a gate, a wall, a cage or what have you, to await their miserable deaths.

              Who decides where we are classified? Did Chickens inve
  • by the_raptor (652941) on Friday April 22, 2011 @03:42AM (#35904400)

    The implication of this news story is that we can replace test animals with "synthetic" tissue analogues but it simply isn't true (despite the fact animal libbers will spin it that way). Tissue based testing is only relevant if you are doing large scale testing to see if a possible effect occurs or are looking at a specific tissue type. The problem is that tissues do not function as individual units in the same way they function as part of an organism.

    For example nearly any compound out there will kill or damage tissue samples at concentrations which even the most sickly lab rat wouldn't notice. Our systems have evolved to quickly remove toxins and to keep other compounds at homoeostasis, but this doesn't work when you isolate the tissues.

    You can't replace whole organism testing with "synthetic" tissue samples and get useful science except at the most basic level. Hell, animal testing is often not even a good substitute for human testing it is just that the public got upset by the rampant testing of vulnerable people in the 40's - 70's so things have to be proven "safe" on animals first.

    • by e_hu_man (1277028)
      the key here is "animal testing is often not even a good substitute for human testing." the progress of synthetic skin is mildly interesting, but it seems barely relevant to the topic of animal testing. of much more relevance is whether animal testing results are useful in a scientific sense. given that most of the science done in the name of developing correlations to humans, animal testing seems to have a rather poor track record. thalidomide is one of the more prominent examples, though, ironically,
  • If only we could compare the cumulative research costs to PETA's budget and lost economic potential.

    Obviously science builds on science but the end result is probably going to save a hundred times as many animals as PETA for a fraction of the overall cost.

  • by Sibko (1036168) on Friday April 22, 2011 @05:55AM (#35904928)
    Let's use synthetic skin that almost certainly doesn't fully reflect the effects on an actual human or animal!

    What if that new face cream you've got turns out to be a contact poison that only effects the liver? This fancy synthetic skin come with a liver? Oh it doesn't?

    Sounds to me like a cost cutting measure by the company that is going to result in less safe skin care products, and their marketing is playing off the animal rights angle so people don't question it.

    I understand the desire to cut out animal testing, and I fully support that. But the human body is complex, some chemical that makes your skin smooth or clears your nostrils might also cause nerve tissue damage [cbsnews.com]. We quite simply cannot match the complexity of the human body synthetically right now, it is foolish and naive to think that you can test a chemical on only one part of the body and ignore all the other parts because they're not related.
    • My problem with the thought of this replacing animal testing comes from these two sentences in the article: "Animal skin is unpredictable, which makes it extraordinarily difficult to anticipate how it will respond when grafted onto a person. Synthetic skin, on the other hand, is consistent in composition and behavior, ..." To me this means that the synthetic skin does not fully replicate the responses of natural skin to irritants (the place where this would primarily be of use).
  • Honestly, if a "revolution" in animal testing is going to occur, they watershed paper will not be out of this journal. The researchers appear to be microscopy specialists, not animal research specialists. Not to denigrate their work, but the literature is littered with people making grandiose claims about how their research can be applied with very little understanding about the other discipline where they suggest it could be useful.

  • Within a few years, a synthetic-skins rights activist group forms demanding for the stop to the "abusive treatment of synthetic skin" and demanding for these tests to be done on people instead.
  • This may not come off as politically correct, but since when has there been a rat skin shortage, and how much does this stuff cost to make?

  • I'm not an animal rights activist. I don't have a problem with animal testing being legal, but if it's possible to get accurate results from a non-living thing that can only be good. Inflicting pain on animals was a necessary evil to prevent that pain from happening to humans, if we can eliminate the pain entirely, I say it's great.

    LK

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