Biofabrication will produce cosmetic ingredients of the future

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

algae image via Solazyme
algae image via Solazyme

Related tags: Algae, Photosynthesis

Living cells, organic molecules and the like will be the raw materials that produce both living and nonliving biological ingredients for personal care products, according to scientists working in the field.

New research out of Germany, using hydrogel substructures, makes 3-D printed algae a reality.

Dr. Anja Lode of the Centre for Translational Bone, Joint and Soft Tissue Research at the Dresden University of Technology, and a team of researchers from that department as well as the university’s Institute of Food Technology have published their technical findings in the journal of Engineering in Life Sciences.

“This means that not only can animal tissue be printed, but so too can plant tissue, or perhaps even a combination of both animal and plant cells via a coculturization process,”​ explained Brian Krassenstein in his article on the scientific development for

Mammal cells have been replicated using printing and rapid prototyping technologies (recalls the Cosmetics Design article, L’Oreal at work on bioprinted skin for cosmetics testing​).

“The [German] study demonstrates that such methods can be extended to cells originating from the plant kingdom,”​ according to the team’s article, ‘Green bioprinting: Fabrication of photosynthetic algae-laden hydrogel scaffolds for biotechnological and medical applications.’

Running a blend of hydrogel and single-celled green algae through a printer and then supplying the structure with light, the team observed that “the printed material gradually became green as the algae grew, releasing oxygen into the surrounding environment,”​ wrote Krassenstein.

Formulated with algae
Personal care products like the Algenist skin care line from Solazyme demonstrate the viability of algae in the industry. That brand formulates all its (anti-aging) products with a patented Alguronic Acid for topical application. And, Solazyme makes algae-based ingredients for not only skin care but also for industrial uses, food, and fuel.

Algae is popular with consumers as a natural ingredient. All the same, sustainable sourcing objectives have prompted alternative growing techniques. 

“The subject of the cultivation of microalgae is having a major boom in terms of research in the last fifteen years,” ​Antonio Marcilla a lead researcher at the University of Alicante told Cosmetics Design​ last year. This latest research development combines cultivation with digital tech.

Beauty and skin-deep implications
Living printed algae is itself a potential cosmetic ingredient. It can also likely be used as little biofactory for making other ingredients. And that’s not all.

The Dresden scientists point out that “the general possibility of [a] combination of human and algae cells in one scaffold, in which the two cell types can be cultured in close vicinity, has been successfully demonstrated in the present study.”

This development could be a game changer: “The ability to 3D print oxygen-producing microalgae alongside human tissue could be the perfect method of supplying the human cells with the necessary oxygen and other secondary metabolites needed for survival and growth,”​ noted Krassenstein.

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