The ingredients for beauty start here
In 1613, the English poet Sir Thomas Overbury secured his place in literary history when he wrote that his wife’s beauty “is but skin deep.”
Overbury clearly was onto something and today the French continue to work on the connection between skin and beauty. (As for the poet, he was later murdered, though surprisingly not by his wife.)
At Ashland’s Vincience Laboratories in the south of France, Christophe Capallere, manager, Innovation and Upstream Research, Tissue Engineering, leads a team of tissue scientists working with human skin to help better determine how a cosmetic or skin-care product will perform outside the lab for people of all races.
“We reconstitute human tissue from isolated cells. With a small piece of skin approximately 5 centimeters square (2 inches) we can reconstitute approximately 600 centimeters square (236 inches) of epidermis,” he says. “This human tissue can be used for toxicology evaluation (and) research, and we can test biofunctionals to evaluate their effect.”
Biological functions from the lab
A biofunctional product is one with a biological function, such as changing the appearance of skin by minimizing the appearance of wrinkles or the properties of hair by repairing brittleness. Ashland markets several such products, with the newest release for skin care being the award-winning ElixianceTM biofunctional, an ecological and sustainable ingredient aimed at fighting the effects of pollution on the skin.
Capallere’s work enables researchers to work with samples that have the characteristics of their choice, such as varying skin pigments, ethnicities, gender, age or areas of the body. Integrated in the Upstream Research department headed by Dr. Jean-Marie Botto, the Tissue Engineering Unit can mass produce, on demand, various skin models with well-characterized functionalities and structures. This is vital in identifying the effectiveness of an ingredient and identifying possible problems such as the potential for irritation.
“It’s a very interesting technology because we produce the medium ourselves, so we can know exactly the composition,” he explains. “We can test the biofunctional on reconstructed epidermis, dermis equivalent, or a full-thickness model, including both epidermal and dermal parts, to test their reaction to an external agent.”
The lab obtains source tissue from hospitals or clinics where it has been removed during surgeries. Individual cells must be isolated within two or three days, then cultured to generate additional cells and reconstruct the tissue.
The right stuff
“It takes approximatively 10 to 14 days and then we can have a well-differentiated epidermis,” says Capallere. “It’s not artificial skin; it’s real skin. Depending on the age or the ethnicity of the donor, we can produce very specific tissue.
“We have all layers of real skin: basal cell layer, spinous cell layer, granular cell layer and stratum corneum. So the epidermis that we produce has the same elasticity, the same firmness,” Capallere says.
“If you want to have a different tone of epidermis, you can add melanocytes (pigment-producers) per ethnicity, so you can obtain a tissue with a skin tone the same as the donor. You can have black, you can have brown, you can have white epidermis,” he adds.
Researchers at the Vincience labs at Sophia Antipolis, France, have worked on tissue engineering for 15 years. Ashland is one of a handful of companies in the world producing human epidermis on a large scale and Capallere, who joined the company in 2013, is among the elite.
“Christophe is one of the very rare experts in the world in this matter,” says Dr. Nouha Domloge, director, Research and Development, Vincience Laboratories. ”He has a lot of knowledge around all of the tissue engineering.
“It’s a great capability and our customers ask for great capabilities. They want to see us strong in this field. We can offer customized tissues, for example, depending on the need of the customers, on the need of the project,” she adds.
Answering consumers’ needs
This targeted tissue engineering enables the development of ingredients by Ashland and end-user products by customers to address specific skin features or solutions to problems identified by consumers.
“It is very interesting to test it and to use it because we have approximately the same reaction as the original skin. And we can produce a lot of similar skin because we use the same cells at the beginning and we use a specific chemically defined medium, the same technology,” Capallere says.
In a related piece of research, Capallere and the team are creating a cell bank to enable work at any time on previously used tissue.
“This is another important tool which, coupled with the exceptional knowledge and skills of the Vincience teams – skin biology, toxicology, omics, molecular biology, bioinformatics and so on – allow us to better know the skin,” says Domloge. “We can develop specific skin models to propose biofunctionals targeting specific skin features. This is a reliable and robust tool for envisioning and realizing very complex tissues.
”It is really great to have Christophe,” she said, noting that “people come to him very quickly with questions. He is a very good scientist and very humble.”
“He brings to Ashland a big value with all he offers in innovation,” she adds.