In vitro skin test to replace animal testing

Tuesday, 14 October, 2014

Scientists from Baxter Laboratories have developed an in vitro skin test that could work alongside other alternative methods to help replace animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs in testing for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. It is hoped that the test, called the Immune Balance Rating (IBR) system, will be used to assess the hypoallergenic response to both raw chemical ingredients and finished products once it has been validated and accepted for use by regulators.

The test is the result of a five-year collaboration between Baxter Labs, Monash University and RMIT University. It has been welcomed by #BeCrueltyFree Australia, a campaign coordinated by Humane Research Australia and Humane Society International to ban animal-tested cosmetics in Australia.

“Non-animal test methods frequently offer companies cheaper, faster and more human-relevant data than the animal tests they replace,” said #BeCrueltyFree Australia campaigner Hannah Stuart, who noted that there are hundreds of cosmetics companies around the world “selling products formulated using existing ingredients, without the need for any new animal testing”.

“This new non-animal test is a welcome development that could add to the toolbox of innovative in vitro tests now available to companies and regulators,” she said.

In August, more than 30 cosmetics companies from across Australia joined with #BeCrueltyFree to write an open letter to Health Minister Peter Dutton urging him to support a national ban on animal testing for cosmetics and the sale of cosmetics animal-tested abroad. Stuart stated that not only can chemicals cause animals’ skin to swell and crack, but rabbit or rodent skin can also “respond very differently to human skin when exposed to the same substance”.

“We hope that Baxter will submit the IBR test for formal validation in consultation with regulatory authorities so that it can be made available to companies wishing to test their products without using animals as soon as possible,” she said.

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