A process developed by researchers at Newcastle University promises a faster and more accurate alternative to animal testing for cosmetics.
The test is named Skimune and uses human skin and immune cells to detect reactions to chemicals and drugs such as blistering or allergic reactions.
Its creators claim that Skimune has a quicker turnaround time than most similar tests and therefore allows companies to reduce their expense and time to market.
The project has recently been successfully tested by a number of large pharmaceutical companies.
Professor Anne Dickinson, director of the company Alcyomic, which created the test, commented: “This skin assay offers an accurate and rapid alternative to animal testing and provides the bridge between the laboratory tests for novel drugs and the first stage of clinical trials in humans.”
The skin test has a short two-week turnaround time and can reveal problems which may not appear in early animal or computer simulation testing, such as sensitization. It can therefore save cosmetic and drug companies time and money which would normally be used in carrying out the testing procedure.
This assay relies on cells isolated from blood samples taken from healthy volunteers and cultured in the lab.
It is specifically targeted towards adverse immune responses rather than toxicology response and can be used to gauge the severity of “cytokine storms,” reactions which can be triggered by certain chemicals interacting with the skin.
Professor Dickinson noted: “We’ve already show this works as a way of testing new drugs for adverse immune reactions that can’t be identified when tested in animal models.”
In an interview with Healthline.com, she commented: "We’re not looking to replace toxicology, but to offer a complement. It’s a test which would be in addition to the tests that are currently run, to give more confidence and more information."
Skimune draws funding from The Three Pillars Fund, One North East Research and Development Grant, among other sources. It has also received a grant from the Technology strategy board for the development of a prototype of the process.
The researchers have founded the company Alcyomics Limited in order to develop the technology further and enable applications such as testing an individual for drug responses to be developed.