Effect of α-Lipoic Acid on the Development of Human Skin Equivalents Using a Pumpless Skin-on-a-Chip Model

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Feb 22;22(4):2160. doi: 10.3390/ijms22042160.


Owing to the prohibition of cosmetic animal testing, various attempts have recently been made using skin-on-a-chip (SOC) technology as a replacement for animal testing. Previously, we reported the development of a pumpless SOC capable of drug testing with a simple drive using the principle that the medium flows along the channel by gravity when the chip is tilted using a microfluidic channel. In this study, using pumpless SOC, instead of drug testing at the single-cell level, we evaluated the efficacy of α-lipoic acid (ALA), which is known as an anti-aging substance in skin equivalents, for skin tissue and epidermal structure formation. The expression of proteins and changes in genotyping were compared and evaluated. Hematoxylin and eosin staining for histological analysis showed a difference in the activity of fibroblasts in the dermis layer with respect to the presence or absence of ALA. We observed that the epidermis layer became increasingly prominent as the culture period was extended by treatment with 10 μM ALA. The expression of epidermal structural proteins of filaggrin, involucrin, keratin 10, and collagen IV increased because of the effect of ALA. Changes in the epidermis layer were noticeable after the ALA treatment. As a result of aging, damage to the skin-barrier function and structural integrity is reduced, indicating that ALA has an anti-aging effect. We performed a gene analysis of filaggrin, involucrin, keratin 10, integrin, and collagen I genes in ALA-treated human skin equivalents, which indicated an increase in filaggrin gene expression after ALA treatment. These results indicate that pumpless SOC can be used as an in vitro skin model similar to human skin, protein and gene expression can be analyzed, and it can be used for functional drug tests of cosmetic materials in the future. This technology is expected to contribute to the development of skin disease models.

Keywords: human skin equivalents; pumpless skin-on-a-chip; skin anti-aging; α-lipoic acid.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Culture Techniques / instrumentation
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / instrumentation
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods*
  • Epidermis / drug effects
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Equipment Design
  • Fibroblasts
  • Filaggrin Proteins
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices*
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Skin / cytology*
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Thioctic Acid / pharmacology*


  • FLG protein, human
  • Filaggrin Proteins
  • Protein Precursors
  • involucrin
  • Thioctic Acid