Human skin cells cut animal testing

Research carried out by Glasgow Caledonian University is creating human stem cells from skin cells to help investigate diabetes and reduce the need for animal testing.

The three-year study, funded by Animal Free Research UK, aimed to develop human cell and tissue-based models to replace animal experiments in studies related to diabetes.

Researchers used human skin cells to create ‘scratch’ wound models to compare the differences between diabetic and non-diabetic cells and to test potential new medicines.

By using human tissue to replace animal experimentation, researchers found they could create models of human skin to be used to test drugs in development, such as those that may help in the treatment of diabetic ulcers.

Researchers were also able to reprogram human skin cells to generate stem cells. Reprogrammed stem cells can transform into many different types of cells, such as brain cells, nerve cells and blood vessel cells, needed in diabetes research.

GCU’s Skin Research Tissue Bank is a collection of human tissue and cells donated by patients with conditions such as type 2 diabetes and critical limb ischaemia.

The reprogramming of skin cells to stem cells places GCU among an elite group of universities in the UK, alongside Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Cardiff and UCL.

Over 135 diabetes-related amputations are carried out each week in the UK. We know that this is a growing problem and we hope that our work can inform research and aid others who require access to human material for medical research.

Professor Ann Graham
Lead researcher on the study