Research Highlights Testing That May Lessen Animal Use; SWANSEA UNIVERSITY IN JOINT STUDY ON NEW METHODS
Byline: ROBIN TURNER
ANIMAL welfare groups have welcomed a major new research project into ways of testing for cancer-causing substances in everyday chemicals and cosmetics without using laboratory animals.
Swansea University's Institute of Life Science is working with Brunel University to develop testing methods based on how human - not animal - cells are affected by certain substances.
They believe it will substantially reduce animal testing. Screening of chemicals used in the cosmetic, drug, agrochemical, and consumer products industries for potentially cancer-causing ingredients (carcinogenicity testing) uses large numbers of animals.
It can involve up to 800 mice or rats for each substance, with about 12,500 animals used annually in Great Britain.
The European Cosmetics Association says five billion cosmetic products are bought by 380 million consumers across Europe each year.
EU legislation requires that each product sold is safe to humans.
For years this was done by testing on thousands of animals but under pressure from groups such as the RSPCA and others, various restrictions and bans have gradually been introduced.
The EU Cosmetics Directive calls for a ban on animal testing of all cosmetic ingredients by 2013.
Now, Professor Gareth Jenkins and his Swansea-based team with colleagues in Brunel have been awarded a pounds 900,000 grant by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).
Their aim is to find methods for assessing cancer risks in chemicals contained in cosmetics such as eye shadow and lipstick and other products without using animals.
Professor Jenkins plans to study how certain chemicals interrupt communication of human cells, possibly leading to cancer.
He will combine the information with currently available data to provide a better prediction of which chemicals are likely to be carcinogens.
The study is being done in collaboration with diagnostics and pharmaceutical giants Roche and GE Healthcare.
Professor Jenkins said: "This grant complements the work into animal replacement strategies already under way within the group I lead at the Institute of Life Science.
"Together, these efforts will help in designing better testing strategies to assess carcinogenicity without the need to use animals while at the same time safeguarding against human exposure to harmful chemicals. …