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Scientists reveal ‘groundbreaking’ animal testing alternative for skin sensitivity

By Andrew MCDOUGALL , 12-Oct-2012

A team of researchers in Portugal have developed a ‘groundbreaking’ test which assesses skin sensitivity and could significantly reduce animal testing in the cosmetics industry.

The test was developed at the University of Coimbra (UC) where researchers at the Centre for Neuroscience (CNC) and the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Coimbra (UC) developed a method of detection for chemical allergen cutaneous (skin sensitization assessment).

The in vitro assay was based on the use of preserved skin cells for evaluation; by examining various parameters, cutaneous allergenicity of chemicals prior to their introduction on the market, thus replacing the respective animal tests.

Faster and cheaper

The test is called ‘Sensitiser Predictor’, and has already been awarded several national and international awards.

According to Teresa Cruz Rosete, one of the researchers, the study seeks to abolish the use of animals in product testing of the cosmetics industry.

“It is a much faster method than those in use today which resort to animal testing (mice), it is more economical and capable of being used on a large scale,” she says.

Rosete has been working as part of a research team, along with Bruno Never and Susana Rosa, for the past six year on this project.

It is claimed the test could mark "the paradigm shift in toxicity evaluation (toxicological) compounds. The international scientific community is focusing specifically on the development of simple and rapid methods to replace animal testing.”

Work in progress

There are plans in place to rid the cosmetics industry of animal testing with a marketing ban proposed next year.

However, there have been big concerns that there are still no alternative tests for various items of toxicity, including skin sensitization.

With an international patent under evaluation, the project, also funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), still lacks the "validation of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods - ECVAM, so it can be considered a reference test the OECD," says the research team.

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