After receiving a 70% research grant from Innovate UK, we have started an innovative project to find a scientifically and ethically advanced test method that’s highly predictive of human acute oral toxicity and relevant to our real-life exposure to chemicals.

What is Acute Toxicity?

The term acute toxicity describes the short-term effects of chemicals on our bodies. This includes ingredients of:

  • Shampoos, conditioners, bath and shower products
  • Skincare and make-up
  • Household cleaning products
  • Pesticides and fertilisers food additives
  • Healthcare products.

Acute toxicity can result from both synthetic and natural ingredients.

The problem

Traditional toxicity testing uses rodentsMore than 80,000 animals are currently used every year in “acute toxicity” testing in the EU alone. For decades, acute toxicity has been tested using the outdated “LD50” type animal tests, even though they’ve been widely discredited. There are variations of the LD50 test to reflect the 3 main routes by which chemicals enter the body: by mouth, by inhalation, or across the skin. LD50 stands for Lethal Dose to 50% of the animals used. Chemicals are assessed for short term toxic effects by dosing animals with increasing concentrations until scientists find the dose that is lethal to 50% of the animals.

Not only is this ethically unacceptable, it’s bad science too, with very little relevance to humans. In real life, we are are exposed to much smaller quantities diluted into products which are applied under a range of circumstances. The LD50 value tells us very little about the true picture when it comes to making a safety assessment of an ingredient.

The solution

At XCellR8, we’re determined to find a solution that doesn’t involve animal testing, and does a better job of protecting human safety too.

We’re developing a cell culture based test that’s much more relevant to human physiology. We’re using ethically donated human cells to develop a screen predicting the acute toxicity of chemicals to humans. Using our unique approach, we’ll grow the cells in our lab without any animal derived components (in “vegan” conditions). We’ll apply a range of relevant concentrations of the chemical and measure the impact on the health of the cells, to find out what could happen if the chemical ended up circulating in our bloodstream. We’ll use the data to calculate a human-relevant, animal-friendly (cruelty-free) version of the LD50 value. We’ll validate the test by screening a wide range of chemicals with known toxicities to humans. Understanding how these well-known chemicals perform in the test will enable us to develop a model that helps to predict the outcome for new chemicals and ingredients.

Ultimately, our test will be used in combination with the latest computer modelling techniques, to present a weight of evidence to regulators as a completely animal-free approach to acute toxicity testing. We’re using the latest science to approach safety assessment in a way that’s better for both animals and humans.

How you can help:

The amazing grant we’ve received from Innovate UK funds 70% of the project, but we have to fund the remaining 30% ourselves. Our first crowd funder is looking to achieve £5,000 to help reach the first milestone of the project: growing the human cells in completely animal-free (“vegan”) culture and establishing the test conditions. Can you help us on our mission to replace animal testing once and for all?

  • Please donate as much or as little as you can here.
  • Spread the word! Share with your friends, family and colleagues.

We’ll be providing regular updates throughout the project via our social media and blog.

Find out more about XCellR8’s journey here.