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EU scientists make considerable progress in animal testing area

By Michelle Yeomans , 11-Dec-2012
Last updated on 03-May-2013 at 10:22 GMT

EU scientists have been awarded the first ever £250,000 (€310,000) Lush Science Prize for their steadfast progress in an ongoing research project to find an alternative to animal testing with chemical safety in mind.

The SEURAT-1 research initiative features six research projects with scientists that have, one year into a five year initiative, already devised models that can determine the concentration of a chemical at a target organ following dermal application or oral ingestion; and can even predict what the internal concentration of a test chemical will be within a cell over time after being exposed in vitro.

Established by the European Commission and Cosmetics Europe, the project is said to be the first major European private-public research consortium of its kind working towards paving the way to replace in vivo repeated-dose systemic toxicity testing.

Prize worthy

According to Brigitte Landesmann at the European Commission Joint Research Centre, the scientists did not enter their research in the competition, but rather that Lush approached them for their work on designing and demonstrating a high-throughput screening system to categorise chemicals based on their potential to cause liver toxicity.

A key part of the prize is to reward 'outstanding contributions' to 21st Century Toxicology – a new approach to chemical testing.

Lush's representing jury ruled that; "SEURAT-1's research produced some novel key results to solve the jigsaw puzzle that represents our understanding of the human reaction to chemicals and that the study of liver toxicology, a very important aspect in safety testing, is right in the center of animal-free safety testing."

The research

The objective of the ongoing research, Landesmann says is to demonstrate the feasibility of an integrated approach to predict liver toxicity following the mode-of-action (MoA) framework by taking normal human cells such as those found in adult skin or blood and then reprogramming them to be able to 'differentiate' into various cell types is set to revolutionise in vitro toxicity testing.

The association recently reported a recent breakthrough on how to produce stable human skin cells which is said will prove invaluable for studies related to topical toxicity for example. The approach is based on using in-depth knowledge of toxicological processes to identify key biological events that can be captured in a suite of specially tailored in vitro assays. 

Methods to trigger cells into reinventing themselves, a prototype bioreactor to engineer living tissue and a computer model to predict the fate of a chemical in the body – are just a few examples of concepts the group has been working on.

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