Sept. 1 - Japanese scientists say they have developed an artificial cornea to replace live animals in the testing of new cosmetics. Animal testing is banned in Europe but is still legal in Japan and the United States. The researchers believe their cornea could help end the practice completely. Tara Cleary reports.
EDITORS NOTE: EDIT CONTAINS MATERIAL THAT WAS ORIGINALLY 4:3 Using graphic videos, activists have been trying for decades to end cosmetics trials on animals. It's been banned in the EU but make-up sold to women in Japan and the US is still subject to legal animal testing. Now Japanese scientists led by Toshiaki Takezawa believe a thin sheet of collagen, much like this one, could play a role in ending the practice. SOUNDBITE: TOSHIAKI TAKEZAWA, SENIOR RESEARCHER AT NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF AGROBIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (NIAS), SAYING (Japanese): "We have developed a new ultrathin collagen membrane. When we put it into a specially-made container we were able to cultivate human corneal cells and create the equivalent of a human cornea." And Takezawa says those cells are as effective as the entire eye of an animal, in detecting toxic chemicals. In preliminary tests, the cells were laid out on sheets and exposed to 30 different chemicals. Takezawa says the number of cells destroyed in the experiment matched the results of previous animal trials in 90 percent of cases. And the other 10 percent were even more accurate than tests on rabbits' eyes. SOUNDBITE: TOSHIAKI TAKEZAWA, SENIOR RESEARCHER AT NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF AGROBIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (NIAS), SAYING (Japanese): "We believe that we have been able to get results that are closer to the effect on human eyes than those found in tests on rabbits. That's largely because even in some chemicals that had already been declared non-toxic in tests on rabbit eyes, we were able to detect levels of toxicity." Takezawa says that apart from the cruelty involved, animal testing is unsustainable in the long-term because of the physiological differences between animals and humans. He says his research could be applied to simulate cells in any part of the human body, from the skin to internal organs, leaving animals out of the process entirely.