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SNU Professor Involved in “Skin Avatar” Research

  • February 17, 2017
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Optical images of cells in a skin-on-a-chip device.
Optical images of cells in a skin-on-a-chip device.

The “Skin Avatar,” a roughly two centimetre-sized chip modeling the human skin, is the latest in “Organ-on-a-chip” technology, undertaken by SNU Hospital Professor Tae Hyun Choi and Professor Sanghoon Lee of Korea University. The research began in August 2014.

Professor Choi said, “While there has previously been research on ‘Organ on a chip’ technology for organs such as the heart, liver, and pancreas, it has yet to be conducted for the skin despite the fact that the skin is the largest organ of the body. I felt that skin research was very important since the skin is responsible for so many functions.”

Creating the skin avatar is a long and involved process, requiring the coculturing of the three cell types of the skin, the epidermis, dermis, and blood vessels. To coculture enough cells for a chip requires a full year.

The research team received a major setback with the passing of Professor Lee on July 20, 2016, who died of a heart attack while he was attending a conference in Hong Kong. Geon Hui Lee, doctoral student of Professor Lee in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, continued the experiments and eventually produced the results.

Kun Hee Lee said, “we are currently able to test cosmetic products using the skin avatar, and expect that in the future, by implanting other cells such as immunocytes in the current structure, we will be able to examine allergic reactions and measure the degree of ultraviolet damage in the skin.” Professor Choi added, “ultimately, we will make the skin avatar model the human skin more accurately so that it can be used to test cutaneous drugs and cosmetics.”

Written by Hye Bin Lee, SNU English Editor, hahahybes@snu.ac.kr
Reviewed by Professor Travis Smith, Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations, tlsmith@snu.ac.kr

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