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L’Oréal and Poietis target laser-printed hair follicle

29 Sep 2016

Exclusive research partnership between the cosmetics giant and French bioprinting start-up focuses on ‘hair engineering’.

Poietis, the University of Bordeaux start-up company working on laser-printed biological tissues and cells, has signed a multi-year research partnership with compatriot L'Oréal that is aiming to use the technology to make a hair follicle.

The cosmetics giant says that it wants to employ Poietis’ high-resolution printing technique, which is based around nanosecond (or shorter) laser pulses, to tackle what it describes as a new scientific challenge.

“L'Oréal has been committed to tissue engineering for almost 30 years and holds unique knowledge and expertise in the field of hair biology,” it says. “This research partnership offers exciting perspectives at a time when conventional tissue engineering technologies remain limited in terms of the complexity of cell patterns.

“The combination of this exclusive technology with L'Oréal's unique expertise in hair biology could make it possible to create a functional follicle capable of producing hair – that is the ambition.”

Precision positioning
One of the key attributes of Poietis’ technology is the resolution and precision with which it can print and position biological tissue. This is said to include a positional resolution on the order of 10 µm, combined with a cellular viability in excess of 95 per cent.

“This unique bio-printing technology involves successively layering micro-drops of bio-inks using a quick scan by a laser beam,” the two firms explain. “The living biological tissue created must then be matured for around three weeks before it can be used in tests.”

Last year Poietis CEO Fabien Guillemot, who invented the technology, told optics.org that the approach has its roots in laser-transfer process steps used in the semiconductor industry to deposit materials.

Guillemot and colleagues have extended that to biological tissues, with the laser pulses used to create a cavitation bubble within a liquid reservoir. The bubble's expansion then forcibly ejects a jet of the liquid, allowing a drop of it to fall onto a substrate.

With the various laser pulse and droplet parameters appropriately optimized, a series of the pico-liter scale droplets can be deposited to make up the requisite volume for the given application.

"We're very proud to be working with L'Oréal,” said Guillemot, who last year signed a deal with German chemicals firm BASF to develop techniques to deposit skin cells that could one day be used to create enough tissue for a skin graft.

Meanwhile José Cotovio, the director of L’Oréal’s predictive methods and models department, added:

“For L’Oréal, the combination of our respective areas of expertise opens up the possibility of previously unheard of achievements in the field of hair. This research partnership is very stimulating for [our] advanced research teams.”

• Fabien Guillemot is also scheduled to speak at next week’s “photonics and beyond” themed Inpho Venture Summit in Bordeaux. The event will see 23 start-up companies - seeking an aggregate €75 million in funding - pitch their business ideas in front of potential investors, across target markets in telecommunications, energy, medicine, and mobility.

Guillemot will represent Poietis in the “disruptive technologies” session, alongside the UK-based terahertz imaging specialist TeraView and others including Canada’s controversial quantum computer developer D-Wave Systems.

Earlier this week D-Wave revealed details of its latest system, said to be based on a 2000-qubit processor, although the genuine advantages of the “quantum annealing” approach used by D-Wave have been questioned by other quantum experts.

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