The development of a 3D immunocompetent model of human skin
Chau, David Y.S.
Haycock, John W.
Ghaemmaghami, Amir M.
As the first line of defence, skin is regularly exposed to a variety of biological, physical and chemical insults. Therefore, determining the skin sensitization potential of new chemicals is of paramount importance from the safety assessment and regulatory point of view. Given the questionable biological relevance of animal models to human as well as ethical and regulatory pressure to limit or stop the use of animal models for safety testing, there is a need for developing simple yet physiologically relevant models of human skin. Herein, we describe the construction of a novel immunocompetent 3D human skin model comprising of dendritic cells co-cultured with keratinocytes and fibroblasts. This model culture system is simple to assemble with readily-available components and importantly, can be separated into its constitutive individual layers to allow further insight into cell-cell interactions and detailed studies of the mechanisms of skin sensitization. In this study, using non-degradable microfibre scaffolds and a cell-laden gel, we have engineered a multilayer 3D immunocompetent model comprised of keratinocytes and fibroblasts that are interspersed with dendritic cells. We have characterized this model using a combination of confocal microscopy, immuno-histochemistry and scanning electron microscopy and have shown differentiation of the epidermal layer and formation of an epidermal barrier. Crucially the immune cells in the model are able to migrate and remain responsive to stimulation with skin sensitizers even at low concentrations. We therefore suggest this new biologically relevant skin model will prove valuable in investigating the mechanisms of allergic contact dermatitis and other skin pathologies in human. Once fully optimized, this model can also be used as a platform for testing the allergenic potential of new chemicals and drug leads.