Why Animal-Product-Free Testing?

Many in vitro test methods still use animal-derived components such as Foetal Bovine Serum (FBS), tissue extracts and antibodies.

However, an increasing body of evidence shows the importance of having a system that models human physiology as closely as possible, rather than relying on the use of animal-based culture systems. The significant ethical issues surrounding the use of animal-derived components, especially FBS, have also been well documented. FBS is derived from blood extracted by cardiac puncture of lliving, unanaesthetised, calf foetuses.


At XCellR8, we’ve invested years of research into developing adaptations of existing safety tests, where all animal components have been eliminated. In their place, we use human-derived serum and antibodies from approved sources as well as chemically defined products. This approach maximises both the human relevance and reproducibility of the test results. Our adaptation of the skin sensitisation test KeratinoSens™ is now incorporated into OECD Test Guideline 442D. We also have several projects underway to ensure APF versions of other TGs become available for regulatory use. To learn more about the challenges and solutions of animal-product-free testing, read our longer article published in HPC Magazine here.

Understanding the animal-free status of in vitro tests is important for cosmetic products and ingredients, especially those aimed at the rapidly increasing number of vegan consumers globally. Our 7-point scale for animal-free testing can be used as a tool to aid transparency across industry and to help with decision making about which tests are acceptable. Increasingly well informed consumers who demand vegan and sustainable supply chains are driving change in the cosmetics industry, as well as organisations who are taking their obligations as good corporate citizens seriously.

The scale clearly shows a progression from the use of animals or components that cause animal sacrifice or suffering, through to waste products (eg from the meat industry) and human-based alternatives, finally progressing to fully APF, defined in vitro systems.

XCellR8 scale of animal-free testing


Every test that we offer comes with a complete, transparent ethical assessment. We undertake full due diligence with our suppliers to understand whether any test components have been exposed to animal derivatives during manufacturing. In this way we are constantly driving positive change in the supply chain, and ensuring we continue to push back the boundaries of what’s possible.

We believe animal-free should mean animal-product-free too. It’s the best way to maximise human safety without making compromises on animal welfare.

A growing number of in vitro assays are included in the Guidelines that can be used as alternatives to animal studies. There is increasing interest for these assays to also be free from animal-derived products to improve human relevance and reproducibility, and to reduce the use of animals… More generally improved in vitro assays would be relevant to a range of industrial sectors including those where animal testing is not conducted (e.g. cosmetics).

NC3Rs, CRACK-IT Challenge 36, 2020


We are often asked whether it’s even possible to remove all the animal components used in in vitro tests. In many cases, yes it is. As an industry, we have some long standing habits to shake off but replacing animal products is possible in these cases:

• Antibodies can be created using recombinant gene technology instead of using animals
• FBS can be replaced with ethically derived human serum or, better still, the use of chemically defined media
• Rat liver extracts can be substituted with ethically sourced human liver extracts

With large organisations such as AstraZeneca and Unilever now sponsoring research into the elimination of animal components in in vitro tests, we anticipate a growing body of scientific data that demonstrates the improved accuracy and reproducibility of these methods. In turn, we hope this will increase the uptake of non-animal reagents throughout industry. 

To discuss your animal-product-free testing strategy with us, please get in touch using the form below.

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