After discovering the presence of human RNA in sebum, Kao developed a method to extract RNA by simply using oil-blotting film in 2019.
Previously, analysing RNA would have required a highly invasive biopsy of the skin.
Similarly, the Babywell Check test kit would require a sample of sebum which can be extracted with oil-blotting film. After sending it in via mail, parents will receive a report.
According to Kao’s research, this method could analyse up to 10,000 molecules of human RNA.
Kao said Babywell Check was targeted at babies with atopic dermatitis. This condition would result in reduced skin barrier function, and it was important to empower parents with skin information in order to better care for their children’s skin.
Unlike DNA, which determines the genetic, unchanging characteristics of your skin, RNA can be used to reveal day-to-day changes in skin conditions.
This project was developed jointly with Japanese health and diagnostics firm Healthcare Systems.
Babywell Check was launched on March 9 at JPY27,500 (USD202).
This launch follows the news that Kao had managed to develop a way to stably store and transport the skin sebum RNA samples at room temperature.
When left at room temperature, the sebum RNA tends to degrade and decompose. The company managed to prevent this by inhibiting enzymes that trigger degradation.
The company said this discovery had made it possible to expand the reach of its RNA testing, allowing users to conduct these tests in the comfort of their homes.
Kao’s RNA journey
Previously in 2020, Kao piloted a beauty counselling service with RNA testing at the BEAUTY BASE by Kao, the company’s flagship store located in Ginza, Tokyo.
The firm worked with Preferred Networks (PFN) to apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, such as machine learning and deep learning, with the data obtained from the sebum RNA.
In 2022, Kao partnered with istyle, parent company of beauty database and retailer @cosme, to build an RNA database.
Both companies aimed to collect at least 10,000 samples from @cosme members. Collection began in 2022, and the target was to have a database ready in 2023.
Kao and istyle said they planned to utilise the database for the development of services and products, which would enable consumers to discover new products more efficiently.
The development of Babywell Check is part of Kao’s 2025 medium-term plans, which aimed to tap into new areas and create new businesses for the company.