Database could cut back on animal testing
in Northern Ireland, with the aim of reducing the number of
scientific studies used in animal testing.
In line with efforts being implemented by European Union to totally ban the testing of all cosmetic ingredients on animals within the next few years, the scientists at the university's Systems Biology Research group are partnering with eight other institutions and companies, including the University of Warsaw for the project. With the help of an investment of €2.8 million from the European Commission, the initiative will build a data bank of information about key aspects of research that are gathered from animal tests. The investment is part of efforts to help companies in Europe reach the requirements stipulated by the REACH programme, which aims to regulate the use of chemicals by all industries in Europe in an effort to make them safer. The project will record, store and make available data about levels of toxic harm of chemicals used in a variety of industries, many of which end up being used in products for the personal care and cosmetics industry. All of the data from the database will be available to all companies using chemical compounds, providing easy access to the database and the information it contains, including forecasts about toxicity. One of the benefits of the project is that it will lead to the greater dissemination of experiment results amongst institutions and companies, which in turn is hoped will lead to a reduction in the need for experiments by avoiding unnecessary duplication. Research Fellow Mathilde Romberg, UU's chief researcher on the project, said:"Chemical components influence our life in a multitude of ways - from drugs, new materials, fertilisers to cosmetics. It is essential to our well-being that we know about the properties of all these substances, whether they could do harm to our environment and, directly or indirectly, to humans." Named Chemomentum, the online resource is found at www.chemomentum.org, and pools the work of experts from all over Europe, including Estonia, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Ultimately the plan is to develop a computer software system that will provide manufacturers and industrial pharmacists with information that will especially determine the level of toxicity in specific chemicals "The toxicity of a compound is important for judging if its harmfulness or its effectiveness," Romberg added. "The production of compounds used, say, for flavouring food or for removing weeds from your patio also has to involve strict evaluation of their toxic effects. Most of the testing involved the use of animals."