Research News Decoding Skin Resilience

11 June 2024

Researchers from the Radboudumc and the company Locsense developed an approach to measure how genetic variants, inflammatory mediators, and drug candidates affect skin barrier development and function. Their collaboration resulted the creation and validation of a custom-made sensing device and attracted funding from the Eurostars program to further develop the technology and its application for skin tissue cultures.

The collaboration between the Laboratory for Experimental Dermatology, headed Ellen van den Bogaard and Susan Roelofs (CEO Locsense, Twente) resulted from the need to functionally assess the skin barrier formation in vitro using cultured 3D human skin models. These faithful models of the skin epidermis are used in preclinical dermatological research but also in regulatory toxicology for safety tests as alternative models to replace animal experimentation. The research by Van den Bogaard focusses on the role of the skin barrier in chronic inflammatory skin diseases, for which her lab has developed multiple in vitro 3D skin models. So far, functional studies in these skin models are based on “circumstantial evidence”, like gene or protein expression. The tissue grown in the lab needs to be sacrificed for such analyses, requiring multiple replicates and large experimental volumes for time and dose series. Also, the actual barrier function of the skin tissue could not be quantitatively assessed.

With the technology developed by Locsense, based on Electrical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) the researchers were now able to measure the skin tissue at multiple time points allowing for longitudinal measurements and replicates, and monitoring the efficacy of interventions to either trigger or treat disease features. The work by the three PhD candidates, Noa van den Brink, Felicitas Pardow and Luca Meesters, with support from laboratory team members and co-led by Jos Smits already resulted in many conference posters and presentations and is now published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Further developments to the sensing technology and its application for skin research will take place in the three-year Eurostars project, Episense, in which Radboudumc with Locsense and Straticell will work towards improved measuring systems and representative skin models allowing pre-clinical studies on pharmaceuticals or toxicity screening of molecules that target the skin barrier.

Picture of 3D skin models showing the stratum corneum, which we measure using the new method.


Read the publication here.

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