Researchers have developed a synthetic gel that behaves like skin, which could replace a substance currently made from mouse cells for lab studies.
To grow and culture cells in the lab (to study cell interactions, for example), researchers commonly use a gel made of mouse tumours (called Matrigel) to mimic what happens inside the body – the process of making Matrigel involves breeding and killing mice.
Now researchers at Radboud University, Netherlands, the EARA member KU Leuven, Belgium, and Hebei University of Technology, China, have found that the synthetic gel could avoid the need to use mice altogether, while also being biologically suitable for research.
The team still need to test the gel’s applications, but it nonetheless ‘represents a real breakthrough’, said Dr Paul Kouwer at Radboud.
He added: “Imagine how great it would be if lots of researchers could use a controlled material for their lab research that does not require sacrificing mice.”