Last month researchers at Herriot-Watt University claimed to have made a break through in 3D bioprinting.
Why is this development so important?
It could spell the beginning of the end for animal testing, which has been a long debated topic of contention for decades. Although the famous Greek doctor Galen studied animals from AD 129 – 200, it is only within the last 150 years that animal research for the purposes of medicine and cosmetic purposes became commonplace.
Meanwhile, organisations like PETA, who are staunchly against the testing of animals, have put increasing pressure on companies that have been using animals for various pursuits.
What are the main advantages to 3d bioprinting human cells?
The advantages appear to be two-fold. First and foremost, 3D bioprinting human stem cells could help to reduce animal testing. Second of all, it will be a more accurate form of testing for us humans.
Why would 3D bioprinting be better for our health?
Testing on other mammals means that we can get close, but not entirely accurate results. For example, the effect a certain medicine has on an animal may not reflect the effects the same medicine would have on a human.
How could Heriot Watt’s break through resolve this problem?
If scientists can take a sample cell from a real human being and closely reproduce that cell using 3d bioprinting, the sick person has a much better chance of finding a recovery method that suits them.
In terms of testing for cosmetics, a 3D printed human stem cell will give a much more accurate result than a test on an animal would. Furthermore, it removes the need to test on the animal altogether.
Will 3D printing diminish the need for animal testing entirely?
It’s hard to tell at this early stage. Bear in mind that while animal testing for cosmetic procedures is banned in the UK and the EU, many other countries including the US and China have very limited regulations.
But 3D bioprinting paves the way for great improvements in the future. Even L’Oreal, a world-renowned cosmetics company that has tested on animals for years, is working with bioprinting company Organavo to 3D print human skin. Perhaps these early positive steps will mean an eradication of animal testing someday – until then, all we can do is wait and encourage the process.