UK-based lab XCellR8 is developing animal-free versions of cosmetics tests, using cells from human skin donated by plastic surgery patients. Matthew Stock reports.
Suspended in this liquid are human skin cells. They were donated to British lab XCellR8 to test different types of cosmetics. And in the process make testing on animals in the cosmetics industry completely redundant. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. CAROL TREASURE, FOUNDER, XCELLR8, SAYING: "For example, for skin irritation testing what is done is that the cells are isolated from human skin that perhaps has been donated by people who have had plastic surgery and they've said that they're quite happy for the tissue to be used for research purposes. So human skins cells are isolated from those skin samples and they're grown in the laboratory." The scientists use scaffolds of skin cells which they say are ideally suited to testing certain cosmetic products. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. CAROL TREASURE, FOUNDER, XCELLR8, SAYING: "What you end up with is an artificial piece of skin in the laboratory where if you cut a cross section through it is almost identical to real skin on the body. It even has a skin barrier so you can apply full cosmetic formulations to the surface. The skin cells are incubated and examined to see what effect the cosmetic ingredient has over time. Other human cell-based alternatives do exist, but XCellR8 believe they're unique in eradicating all animal components. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. CAROL TREASURE, FOUNDER, XCELLR8, SAYING: "In many cases the culture of human cells still requires the use of animal components such as blood-derived components or liver extract which mean that ultimately animals have still been sacrificed for that work. One of the unique things about XCellR8 is that we've eradicated all of those components and so we have a truly animal free testing laboratory." It's an emotive issue. And while animal testing for cosmetics is banned in the EU, it is legal in many countries, including China where it's a legal requirement for products before they come to market. XCellR8 says the challenge now is to convince governments around the world that their human-based approach to cosmetic testing is a superior alternative.