The UK-based company has developed a system that it believes provides a more accurate and ethical alternative to animal tests for chemicals including cosmetics ingredients, pharmaceuticals and household goods.
Kirkstall’s director Malcolm Wilkinson explained that although the company was starting trials with chemical companies now, it would be some time before the tests were accepted as animal alternatives.
“Realistically we are talking three to five years before the regulatory bodies accept these tests, but there is a big difference between the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries,” he said.
The ban on the testing of cosmetics ingredients on animals should come into force in 2013, which ups the pressure to find alternatives.
There are tremendous efforts from some of the bigger cosmetic companies such as L’Oreal to move forward in this area, he said.
Kirkstall’s system is based on multiple linked cell modules which contain one or more cell type, allowing for communication within and between the cell modules.
‘Quasi vivo’ system
According to the company this creates a ‘quasi vivo’ system which can more accurately model the effect of a chemical on the body.
Taking the example of skin irritation, Wilkinson explained that the model contained three different types of skin cells that were all involved in the irritation pathway giving a better representation of real life.
In addition, the model can be designed to investigate the effect of the chemical to different levels of detail.
In the most simplistic of models, cell death is the endpoint and a simplistic screen will find the lethal dose of the compound. However, looking at protein chemistry and the metabolites produced is also possible.
“With the right equipment you can monitor things down to the molecular level,” Wilkinson said.
The model does not rely on a particular proprietary assay which also affords companies more freedom regarding the endpoints (toxicity, irritation etc) it wishes to investigate.
According to Kirkstall’s business development manager Dr Kate Darley the cosmetics industry has so far shown a ‘massive interest’ in the system. This includes a comment from L’Oreal that the biomodule system is the sort of technology the industry should be aiming at in anticipation of the European ban on animal testing that is due to be in full effect in 2013.