'Toxichip' system may replace animal testing


AN INTERNATIONAL research team including scientists from the Tyndall National Institute have developed a highly sensitive toxicity testing system. They believe it could provide a replacement for animal testing in toxicity screening.

The Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe, launched the Toxichip yesterday in Cork to mark the beginning of Nanoweek, a week-long celebration of nanotechnology research to help raise public awareness of the importance of this technology to Ireland’s economy.

The Toxichip is a sensing system developed at Tyndall in collaboration with European academic and industrial partners funded under the EU’s Framework Programme 6.

It is sensitive enough to measure the effects of toxic substances on human or animal cells in culture. It provides this information in real time which means the system can be used to gauge the direct effect of chemical pollutants, experimental drugs and toxic substances in food and beverages.

Tyndall researchers led by Dr Eric Moore developed the biosensors for the system, which he believes has the potential to replace animal testing.

EU directives have placed new strictures on the use of animals for toxicity testing, both under the Reach chemical directive and the Cosmetics Directive. They force companies to reduce the use of animals for toxicity testing.

The Toxichip demonstrated how research under way at Tyndall and at other centres around the State could contribute to the “smart economy”.

The creation of “a strong research, innovation and commercialisation ecosystem” was central to an economy based on knowledge, the Minister said.

  • Nanoweek runs from November 30th to December 4th. Full details of public events during the week are available at www.nano week.ie