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Despite widely used for basic and preclinical studies in dermatology, available animal models only partly recapitulate human skin features often leading to disappointing outputs when preclinical results are translated to the clinic. Therefore, the need to develop alternative, non-animal models is widely recognized to more closely recapitulate human skin pathophysiology and to address the pressing ethical demand of reducing the number of animals used for research purposes, following the globally accepted 3Rs principle (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement). Skin is the outermost organ of the body, and, as such, easily accessible. Different skin cell types can be propagated in vitro and skin can be reconstructed for therapeutic transplantation as well as for in vitro modeling of physiopathological conditions. Bioengineered skin substitutes have been developed and evolved from elementary to complex systems, more and more closely resembling complete skin architecture and biological responses. In silico analyses take advantage from the huge amount of data already available from human studies for identifying and modeling molecular pathways involved in skin pathophysiology without further animal testing. The present review recapitulates the available non-animal models for dermatological research and sheds lights on their prospective technological evolution.
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