Menard has been working with stem cell technology since 2003 to create models that closely resemble human skin.
The firm noted that producing a model with low skin barrier was crucial for skin research as barrier functions are known to affect skin conditions such as skin sensitivity or skin dryness.
“Low barrier function is important for skin research and cosmetics evaluation because barrier function affects skin condition such as dry skin and sensitivity to irritation,” said the company in a statement.
For this project, the company applied genome editing technology to produce functional three-dimensional cultured epidermis models with different barrier functions.
“We have successfully developed a skin model with functions. This technology is expected to enable stable research and cosmetic evaluation of skin conditions with different barrier functions,” said Menard.
“The technology developed this time will be applied to the development of beauty services and cosmetics that respond to differences in skin condition and individual skin quality.”
Modifying skin barriers
Genome editing is a technology that allows the free manipulation of gene sequences.
It has been successfully used in other fields like agriculture to produce to disease-resistant crops, as well as medicine, to treat genetic diseases.
Menard claims that editing is more accurate and efficient compared to conventional genetic modification technology.
With genome editing, the company managed to alter the genome of epidermal stem cells with the filaggrin gene to create a model with a reduced barrier function.
The researchers targeted filaggrin because of its integral role in the skin barrier. It is one of the proteins produced by epidermal cells.
It performs various functions, such as maintaining moisture and maintaining the structure of the epidermis.
To create the skin model, the firm’s researchers edited the gene of epidermal stem cells that could only produce ‘immature’ filaggrin with reduced functions.
As a result, the team produced a three-dimensional cultured epidermis model that had a thin tissue structure which exhibited characteristics of the epidermis with reduced barrier function, such as easy passage of external substances.
Additionally, the amount of filaggrin in the epidermal model could be regulated, making it possible to control the strength of the skin barrier and reproduce skin with various conditions.
The firm believes this would lead to the development of models that evaluate the skin’s response to low-irritant substances, which have been challenging to test.
“By combining normal stem cells with genome-edited stem cells, we have succeeded in reproducing barrier functions at various stages. These models can be expected to be applied to evaluation models for hypoallergenic substances, which have been difficult to detect until now.”