The test is an improved version of the company’s EpiDerm Skin Irritation Test (SIT), validated by ECVAM last April.
According to the company, the test can determine the skin irritation potential of raw cosmetics materials and will help companies adhere to the industry’s ban on animal testing that comes into force March 2009.
Modified test more sensitive
MatTek’s original test was accepted as a replacement for animal tests, but only under certain conditions. All irritating results brought up by the test were accepted but non-irritating results required further investigation using other methods.
However, the Massachusetts-based company has modified the test to increase the sensitivity; modifications which have now been accepted by the European authority.
The modification involves an increased test time. In contrast to the original EpiDerm SIT, which had a 15 minute exposure time, the new test has an exposure time of one hour.
This improves the sensitivity of the test and leads to results that are a more accurate match with those from the in vivo Draize rabbit skin irritation tests, according to the company.
The Modified EpiDerm SIT is not the only non-animal skin irritation model available. L’Oreal’s Episkin model was validated by ECVAM in spring 2007 as a replacement capable of identifying irritating and non-irritating substances.
Skin sensitization proves challenging
Although significant advances in skin irritation have been made, non-animal alternatives are conspicuously absent in other areas of safety testing.
Non-animal models to identify skin sensitisers still remain out of reach and earlier this year Colipa committed an additional €1.5m specifically to finance research into the mechanisms through which chemical allergens induce Allergic Contact Dermatitis in humans.
The European trade association said that fundamental gaps exist in current understanding and has therefore made the money available for funding research proposals in this area over the next three years.