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.
With the European Commission's Joint Research Centre as a key partner, the initiative has developed concepts like a research strategy formulated around harnessing knowledge rather than simply generating data and an organisational model that marries crowd-sourcing with individual excellence.
The consortium is the first phase of a longer term research initiative aimed at Safety Evaluation Ultimately Replacing Animal Testing. Although there is an initial focus on chemicals found in cosmetics and personal care products, the methodology and tools being developed by the initiative’s scientists are intended for application in a variety of fields.
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 reports 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.
Furthermore, with a collaboration between material scientists, bioengineers and cell biologists, SEURAT-1 has already demonstrated the first prototype of a miniaturised bioreactor to produce a “liver on a chip” device to detect chemicals that are potentially hepatotoxic.
Finally, the group's scientists revealed that they have already devised models that allow prediction of 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.
This consortium is the first private-public research initiative of its kind, launched in January 2011 and which will run for a period of 5 years. It has an overall budget of €50 million, equally financed by the European Commission (FP7) and Cosmetics Europe. It aims at paving the way to replace in vivo repeated-dose systemic toxicity testing.