Shreya Asher will be working at Queen Mary University of London on a skin cell culture model to better understand skin cancer without having to conduct any experiments on mice.

SUPERVISOR: Professor Mike Philpott - Queen Mary University of London

STUDENT: Miss Shreya Asher

Large numbers of mice are used every years to investigate skin biology and disease. However, mouse skin is very different to human skin both in terms of thickness, number and size of hair follicles and sebaceous glands and lack of sweat gland, cell turnover, response to cancer agents and immunology. We have developed a prototype human skin model which can be made using redundant human skin left over from cosmetic surgery and is widely available to researchers. Preliminary work on this model shows it maintains normal skin structure and cell division and also maintains resident immune cells which are normally lost within 24 hours of culture. Further validation of this model and acceptance by skin researchers would lead to drastic reduction in the use of animals for skin research.

The validation of the new skin model would lead to a major reduction in the use of animals for skin research. Presentations on this new model have generated significant local interest within the department and at KCL and have already lead to the reduction of animal usage by 30-50% in the Lombardi (KCL) laboratory. We calculate that a similar reduction in animal usage could be achieved when the model is publically available. The new culture system is simple and can be used by any dermatology laboratory. Approximately 290 mouse skin papers were published in the UK between 2014 and 2016 (5,800 mice); based on our local data we conservatively anticipate a reduction by 3,000 mice a year in the UK. We will present the model at the national British Society for Investigative Dermatology conference to ensure national usage of the airganotypic system over animal models. This model will also be used to target European and American skin researchers at the ESDR and SID respectively.