Swansea Uni cell culture

Animal welfare groups hail Swansea University's trial of testing without animals


Animal welfare groups hail Swansea University's trial of testing without animals

By Robin Turner, WalesOnline
Feb 16 2012

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 £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."

Dr Vicky Robinson, chief executive of the NC3Rs added: "Carcinogenicity testing uses large numbers of animals and currently relies on inefficient
and expensive testing methods.

"Our grants to Swansea and Brunel will deliver tests that will benefit both animals and the industries in which they are used."

Dr Elmar Gocke of Roche, who is collaborating with Gareth Jenkins's work, said: "In the pharmaceutical industry, genetic toxicity testing plays an
important role in screening out chemical structures that might damage genetic material.

"Test results are crucial in determining the relevance to human exposure. However, the accumulation of confusing test results can hamper, rather than aid, progress in devising new treatments.

"Our work with Professor Jenkins will contribute to a better understanding of the carcinogenetic processes leading to more cogent risk assessments."

Tests on cells cultured in the laboratory for detecting a chemical's potential to damage DNA and/or cause mutations are currently used in routine
carcinogenicity tests.

But they have a high rate of "misleading positives" where chemicals that do not damage DNA are wrongly classified as potential carcinogens, which then requires animal experiments for clarification.

Alistair Currie, policy officer for People for Ethnic Treatment of Animals (Peta) said: "The current animal test for carcinogenicity is primitive,
cruel and useless.

"Toxicologists agree results are so variable that accurately assessing the real risk to human beings this way is impossible yet hundreds of animals are force-fed, sometimes for their entire lives, and killed for every chemical or drug tested.

"This very welcome research programme points the way to effective and humane safety testing that's based on a scientific assessment of what happens in our bodies, rather than crudely poisoning animals and counting their bodies.

"This is win-win innovation, saving animals' lives and giving better protection to humans."

Marie Claire Macintosh, spokeswoman for animal welfare charity Four Paws, said: "We welcome this new funding.

"It is further proof of success in human-based research using 21st-century alternative methods, without animals."

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