Danish researchers have used artificial human skin to block the growth of skin cancer. The study published in “Science Signaling” looks at what actually happens when a cell becomes a cancer cell.
«We have been studying one of the cell signaling pathways, the so-called TGF beta pathway.. This pathway plays a fundamental role in the cell’s communication with its environment and controls, for example, cell growth and cell division. If these mechanisms are damaged, the cell can become a cancer cell and invade the surrounding tissue,” explains professor and team leader Hans Wandall from the University of Copenhagen.
Under normal circumstances, your skin cells will not just start to invade the hypodermis and wreak havoc. Instead, they will produce a new layer of skin. But when cancer cells emerge, the cells no longer respect the boundaries between the layers of the skin and begin to invade each other. This is called an invasive growth.
This group have been studying the TGF beta pathway and have applied methods to block invasive growth and thus slow down the invasive growth of skin cancer. “We already have several drugs that can block these signaling pathways and that can be used in testing. We have used some of them in this study,” explains study co-author Sally Dabelsteen.
“Some of these drugs have already been tested in humans, and some are in the process of being tested in connection with other types of cancer. They could also be specifically tested in skin cancer,” he says. The artificial skin used by the researchers in the new study consists of genetically engineered artificial human skin cells. Skin cells are produced in subcutaneous tissue made of collagen. This causes the cells to grow in layers, just like real human skin.
Unlike mouse models, the skin model allows researchers to introduce artificial genetic changes relatively quickly, providing insight into the systems that support skin development and renewal.
In this way, they can also reproduce and follow the development of other skin disorders, not just skin cancer.«By using artificial human skin, we overcome the potentially problematic hurdle of whether results from tests on mouse models can be transferred to human tissue.. Previously, we used mouse models in most studies of this type. Instead, we can now conclude that these substances are probably not harmful and might work in practice, because artificial skin means we are closer to human reality,” Wandall says.
The artificial skin used by the researchers resembles the skin used to test cosmetics in the EU, which banned animal testing in 2004. However, artificial skin does not allow researchers to test the effect of a drug on the whole body. , Wandall acknowledges.
“We can study the effect by focusing on the individual organ, the skin, and then gain experience regarding how the molecules work, while looking to determine if they damage the skin’s structure and healthy skin cells,” he adds.