This week in the lab we’ll be working on our special project (funded by Innovate UK) to develop a human cell-based alternative to the traditional animal tests for acute toxicity. We’ve been testing 10 different cosmetic ingredients from a range of categories (eg preservatives, colours, surfactants, fragrances) to assess their effect on human skin cells in culture. Skin cells are the first cells exposed to cosmetics but they also provide a model of initial damage that could happen at other sites in the body, if the cosmetic product is either swallowed (this happens to some extent with lipsticks and lip balms etc) or absorbed across the skin. Many cosmetic ingredients are at least partially absorbed through the skin barrier and end up in the bloodstream – and can end up being distributed to a number of organs in the body. So it’s very important to be able to assess any potentially harmful effects. This project is just the first step in developing a fully human based strategy to assess acute toxicity in humans. Ultimately, we’d like to combine it with other tests looking at specific events in key organs such as the liver, kidneys etc. In our view this provides a much more scientific approach than the current animal tests that are still required by a number of regulations including REACH. The LD50 test means “Lethal Dose 50%”. Groups of rats are given increasing doses of a chemical until 50% of them die. We don’t believe that this type of test provides any meaningful information for human safety assessment, and we’re excited to be working on a human-based approach. XCellR8 is leading this project, the initial phase of which will be complete in January 2016, and we’re doing the work in collaboration with #FRAME, #Lush and #Inventya. If you’d like to find out more, please contact us!

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