Chemical testing without animals 'close'


SKIN ALLERGIES:SCIENTISTS ARE “very close” to being able to predict which products cause skin allergies without the need to first test the substances on animals, the Euroscience Open Forum has been told.

Research in the area is being carried out by Seurat-1, a public-private partnership established by the European Commission and cosmetics companies to find ways to end the need for testing products on animals.

The aim of the project, which has a budget of €50 million, is to end animal testing for all chemicals from cosmetics to medicines and household chemicals. Scientists are working on using stem cells to test products, which would obviate the need to use animals.

A ban on testing finished cosmetic products on animals has been in place in Europe since 2004. A ban on testing cosmetic ingredients on animals came into force in 2009. Companies have got around these measures by testing elsewhere in the world.

However, a Europe-wide ban will come into place next March which will outlaw the sale of any cosmetic product which has been tested on animals anywhere in the world since 2009.

Irish scientist Maurice Whelan, who works at the EU’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, as head of the system toxicology unit, said ending the need to test skin products on animals would go a long way to ensuring cosmetics could be tested without cruelty.

However, the six-year project has a much wider approach, according to Dr Whelan.

“From our point of view, from a scientific point of view, we are looking at molecules from the safety of medicine, cosmetics or a consumer product in the home,” he said.

“It is not saying that we’re going to solve everything in five years and that we are never going to test a product on animals again – it is not true.

“We have to look towards the long term and lay down a solid foundation.”

Eighteen months into the Seurat-1 project, there have already been solid results. Reseachers have already developed a “liver on a chip” device to detect chemicals that are potentially toxic.

Sensors in the “biochip” device allow measurement of the toxicological effects of substances on tissue that are manifest only after long-term exposure.

The ultimate aim of the Seurat-1 project is to understand the molecular and cellular pathways that make a substance toxic.