3D reconstructed skin can be a good alternative for experimental animal models

Bogaard , Van De Ellen

Today, the use of experimental animals for testing of cosmetics is prohibited. But in biomedical research, experimental animal models are often indispensable.

Ellen van den Bogaard (Dept. Dermatology/Laboratory of Medical Immunology) has now proven that in certain cases the use of experimental animals can be avoided by using tissue engineered tissue. With tissue engineered skin she revealed the ancient mystery of why coal tar is effective against eczema.  

On Friday 28th of March, Ellen van den Bogaard will defend her thesis entitled: From skin development to disease pathogenesis and therapeutics - The power of 3D skin models. With 3D skin models generated from skin cells isolated from healthy volunteers or patients with eczema or psoriasis, she performed fundamental and translational research on the biology of the skin and disease pathogenesis. The most remarkable result from her studies is the discovery that the aryl hydrocarbon receptor mediates the therapeutic effect by coal tar on eczema skin. This receptor stimulates the production of skin barrier proteins thereby repairing the dysfunctional skin barrier in eczema patients. 

Notably, this research was performed without using experimental animals and solely based on 3D tissue engineered skin. "Experimental animals for biomedical research will always be necessary", according to Van den Bogaard, for example if we want to know how a living organism in sickness or health responds to a substance. "But with the aid of 3D reconstructed skin we can at least refine and reduce the use of experimental animals". Besides ethical issues regarding experimental animal use, there are also scientific objections. The skin of rodents is quite different from human skin and the phenotype of knockout mice is therefore not always comparable to gene function in human skin, states Van den Bogaard in her thesis. 

The research on coal tar treatment and aryl hydrocarbon receptor signaling in skin will be part of Van den Bogaard's future work as a post-doc in the Dermatology department. And where possible this work will also be performed with a minimum of experimal animals. 


Ellen H.J. van den Bogaard - From skin development to disease pathogenesis and therapeutics, 'The power of 3D skin models'.

Thesis Radboudumc. Promotion date 28 March 2014. 12.30 hrs.

Promotors: prof. J. Schalkwijk, prof. I. Joosten. Copromotor: dr. P.L.J.M. Zeeuwen.

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