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Thursday February 9th, 2023
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In vitro experiments on skin cells and skin aging: interview with Catherine Grillon, researcher at the CNRS

With the extension of the shelf life, the problems related to pollution and the environment, a strong demand for anti-aging products has developed and it is today a key topic for the cosmetics sector. Catherine Grillon, researcher at the Center for Molecular Biophysics in Cutaneous Biology and Microenvironment, proposes to familiarize cosmetic professionals with in vitro techniques on skin cells.

Why is skin cell biology an essential area of research for the cosmetics industry?

Skin biology has evolved a lot in recent years: we better identify the mechanisms of skin function and maintenance of its balance but also the causes of skin disorders. These advances make it possible to explore new avenues and find new active ingredients for more suitable and efficient cosmetic products.

Moreover, in today's society, consumers are increasingly attentive to scientific evidence as to the effectiveness of the products they buy, so it is necessary for the cosmetics industry to be able to provide this proof through science. As the use of animals has been totally banned in the cosmetics sector in France and the European Union since 2013, new ways had to be found to assess the potency and safety of cosmetic products. Cell biology has responded to this need by developing different in vitro models of skins, from the simplest to the most complex, and new techniques to evaluate in vitro the activity of compounds.

Where did your research journey take you?

My research focuses mainly on skin aging and the study of oxygenation on the antioxidant defenses of the skin.

During my thesis, I studied skin cell receptors and began to develop ways to specifically target these cells to deliver active ingredients. This led me to look at the cutaneous microenvironment and more particularly on the construction of in vitro models closer to the skin in physiological conditions. I was mainly interested in the oxygenation rate of the skin, which is very low in the epidermis. Indeed, the two main characteristics of skin aging are a destruction of the extracellular matrix, especially in the dermis, and oxidative stress by free radicals. However, the rate of oxygenation of the skin is essential in the formation of these free radicals and therefore in skin aging.

In addition, having participated in several collaborative projects with companies in the cosmetics field, I quickly realized the importance of testing active ingredients on skin cells, in addition to in tubo tests, with isolated enzymes or molecules. Working on skin cells to evaluate pro/antioxidant activity allows, for example, to identify direct-acting antioxidant compounds but also inducers of the cell's antioxidant defenses.

What should those who follow your training expect?

The Skin cell biology: cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications training that I offer with CNRS Business Training is a three-day internship that takes place in my laboratory. Participants are introduced to three types of skin cell experiments to evaluate:

  • Possible cytotoxicity
  • Pro/antioxidant activity
  • Collagen production

Half of the time is devoted to experimentation: the participants carry out all the manipulations on the three techniques studied and analyze their results.

A theoretical part is also developed in order to review the different existing techniques, define the important parameters to be taken into account and the selection criteria, according to the experience of the participants and the equipment to which they have access in their laboratory. Moments of exchange are reserved to deepen different points at the request of the trainees.

At the end of the training, participants are able to choose the appropriate techniques according to their needs, to define the parameters of experimentation, to carry out the experiment and to interpret the results. They also leave with the contact details of the experts who remain at their disposal if they are faced with difficulties in the implementation of these techniques.

Cell biology of the skin: cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications, a CNRS Business Training training, from 27 to 29 March 2023.

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