L'Oreal already grows thousands of human skin samples per year in its labs in Lyon, France — but it wants more. So the cosmetics company is partnering with Organovo, a startup that uses bioprinting technology to create human tissue capable of replicating the body's biological functions. Within the next five years, L'Oreal wants to speed up and increase skin production in its labs using Organovo technology, Bloomberg reports.
L'Oreal will use Organovo's NovoGen Bioprinting Platform to print skin tissue. The process involves identifying "key architectural and compositional elements" of the targeted tissue and creating a specially formulated "bio-ink," or multicellular building block, for it. The tissue is then built in vertical layers. Similar skin-printing technology has previously been suggested as a way to expedite the healing process for facial injuries and burns.
L'Oreal's current skin-farming technique involves breaking down skin tissue into cells, feeding those cells a special diet, and growing them in an environment that mimics the human body. The original cells come from tissue donated by plastic surgery patients. Of the more than 100,000 skin samples the company makes annually, half are used for L'Oreal's own cosmetics research and half are sold to pharmaceutical companies and competitors, according to Bloomberg. A single sample is half a square centimeter wide and up to one millimeter thick, and takes about a week to form. L'Oreal hopes Organovo's technology will add precision and speed to the process. Annually, L'Oreal's labs already produce around five square meters of skin, Bloomberg reports.
Organovo has previously partnered with biopharmaceutical companies and academic medical centers, but this is its first foray into the beauty industry. The company is currently working with pharmaceutical giant Merck to print liver and kidney tissues, Bloomberg reports.