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No More Laboratory Mice: Lab-Grown Human Skin Can Be Used For Testing

Technology allowing cosmetic makers to test for allergic reactions to their products without controversial animal trials is in the works and could be in use by next year.

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Technology allowing cosmetic makers to test for allergic reactions to their products without controversial animal trials is in the works and could be in use by next year.

The technology developed by Hurel Corp., with funding from cosmetics maker L'Oréal, is designed to replace tests on mice and guinea pigs used to predict skin reactions from drugs and cosmetics. The device uses laboratory-grown human skin cells to simulate the body's allergic response to foreign chemicals. Preliminary experiments show promise, but rigorous tests are still needed to determine the technology's accuracy.

The standard method for testing allergic reactions involves applying chemicals to the ears of mice, which are later killed and dissected for study.

The product from Hurel consists of a glass chip with human skin cells and chemicals that simulate the body's immune system. When a foreign substance is dropped onto the chip, the cells and chemicals interact to mimic the human body's natural allergic response.

While the product is still in development, Hurel officials say a working prototype should be available by the second half of next year. The technology could also be used to test household cleaners and pesticides.

L'Oreal is racing to develop alternatives for testing wrinkle creams and lipstick to comply with European Union laws. Regulators there have ordered companies to phase out animal skin testing by 2013.

L'Oreal has decreased its use of animal testing over the years, but still relies on the technique to test certain new chemicals.

Said Dr. Charles Sandusky, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: "This is the first thing I've ever seen where the immune system is being mimicked without using an animal component."

Sandusky, a former toxicologist at the Environmental Protection Agency, estimates Hurel's technology could eliminate the need for tens of thousands of test animals each year. The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plans to grant the company an innovation award for "animal-friendly achievement in commerce."

Source: thespec.com