In its recently published annual report, European cometics and toiletries body Colipa says that its main focus in the area of research and development remains to find an alternative to the testing of products on animals. Simon Pitman reports on some of the alternatives it is developing that aim to meet regulations that will ban animal testing of cosmetics products by 2009.
Colipa's recent move to strengthen its technical structure by creating a programme committee has made way for an integrated research programme to be set up to deal with projects on a longer-term basis. However, despite the re-organisation, the body says that developing alternatives to animal testing remains its primary focus.
Headed by Chairman Odile De Silva, the programme aims to provide expertise and advice on all scientific research matters relating to the industry.
In the past year, the programme has further developed a number of areas relating to animal testing, represented by the Steering Committee on Alternatives to Animal Testing (SCAAT). The eventual goal of the committee is to develop non-animal methods of testing cosmetic and toiletry products that could be validated by the European Commission.
Besides the general research programme, it has also been broken down into three core areas - eye irritation, skin irritation and skin allergy - which are all being explored concurrently.
The research into eye irritation aims at a better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of chemically induced eye irritation and recovery. To this end the committee has developed a specific experimental vitro corneal/perfusion system. This test has been constructed using different corneal epithelial cell line designed to react similarly to the human eye when used as an in-vitro model.
The eye irritation specialists are also looking at gene expression induced by chemicals during injury and recovery and has from a collaboration with the European Centre for Validation of Alternative Methods.
Skin irritation has followed a path that is working towards the division of chemicals into irritants and non-irritants. Colipa's research in this area focuses on the evaluation of mechanisms of the less severe skin irritation response, with the ultimate aim of identifying novel genomic and protemic markers of chemical irritation in human skin models.
A project looking into skin allergy induced changes at the genomic level was completed in 2004. The next stage is to target exploration into the sensitivity of the response with a view to developing a vitro assay for predicting skin sensitization potential.
Still in the allergies area, the team will also be carrying out further work on a collaborative project for the development of a peptide reactivity assay for predicting skin allergens that was first initiated towards the end of 2004. Furthermore it will also be working on a multi-partner project to develop alternative methods for skin allergy and respiratory allergy called Sensitiv.