Two very distinct approaches are used in this edition, which highlights the human body: one in reporting on the development of replacements for its largest organ, the skin, and a second in understanding the specificities of the female body, well beyond its reproductive qualities.
The reconstitution of human skin has been the subject of research since the 1970s, with a view to developing important medical applications such as the treatment of burns and skin ulcers. This area of research has gained renewed attention with the demand for more effective and ethically acceptable models for testing for drugs and cosmetics. Innovations in this field have enabled the large-scale development of artificial skin, now being marketed by biotechnology and cosmetics companies.
The artificial skin, usually created from a variety of sources of human cells, features several advantages beyond the ethical considerations, such as greater breadth and accuracy in evaluating toxicity and efficacy parameters for cosmetic products. The cover story describes the process involved in producing the tissue and the efforts, by several teams from public and private laboratories, to develop this material in Brazil.
The demand has become a more urgent issue with the imminent enforcement of a resolution by Brazil’s National Council for the Control of Animal Experimentation (CONCEA) that requires the adoption of alternative, animal-free research methods according to authorized protocols, starting in 2019. In 2015, a Brazilian cosmetics company announced the creation of its own model to be used in testing raw materials and its finished products.
Research studies conducted at Brazilian institutions are seeking the development of skin models similar to those produced commercially, in addition to epidermis models to study diseases such as melanoma and cervical cancer. The University of São Paulo Laboratory of Skin Biology introduced its first model of artificial skin 10 years ago and is currently developing an aged skin for use in tests of cosmetics as well as a version meant for skin cancer studies. The D’Or Institute for Research and Education in Rio de Janeiro is working with a multinational to refine its commercial epidermis model by inserting sensory neurons to make it more like natural human skin. One of the technological challenges involved is the need to shorten the production time for these tissues, thus enabling their use in the treatment of burns.
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It was while preparing a special supplement that will circulate with the August edition that this month’s interview came to pass. Chilean physician Anibal Faúndes, 85, granted our Science Editor, Ricardo Zorzetto, a comprehensive and riveting interview on controversial subjects such as machismo, rape and abortion – the focus of debates and policies that often lack a scientific basis. Living in Brazil for 40 years now, Faúndes continues to engage in research studies on female sexuality, contraception and violence against women, and to propose groundbreaking public policies that do not limit women’s health issues to their reproductive role. We’ve taken the extraordinary step of devoting eight pages to the conversation with Faúndes, who gives his account from the time of his escape from Pinochet’s Chile and acknowledges, with unique candor, the role his first wife, Argentine sociologist Ellen Hardy, had in shaping his understanding of the woman’s perspective. It’s a timely and unforgettable interview.