Guest Blog: EU Ban on Animal Testing in Cosmetics Spurs Stem Cell Derived Toxicity Assay Development

ban on animal testing stem cells (understanding animal testing)

On day 2 of the World Stem Cell Congress 2013 in London Dr. Marc Peschanski head of the Institute for Stem cell Therapy and Exploration on Monogenic diseases1 (i-STEM) addressed the congress attendees on the recent challenges and achievements of the ‘Stem Cells for a relevant, Efficient, Extended and normalized Toxicology2' (SCR & Tox) programme he directs. SCR & Tox is an EU FP-7 funded program which aims to eliminate the requirement for animal testing. With the EU's full ban on animal testing for the cosmetics industry effective as of 11th March 20133 Dr. Peshanski's work will be of particular interest to cosmetics companies Europe-wide. SCT & Tox is focused on harnessing creating cell based toxicity assays to detect early cellular changes in toxicity pathways of a variety of cell types. The research aims to detect changes in cell specific toxicity pathway before cell injury occurs for cells including primary and pluripotent stem cell derived keratinocytes, fibroblasts and hepatocytes, cardiomyocytes and neurons. Early results show stem cell derived tissue models are not only capable of filling the gap left by the animal testing ban but can also be an improvement.

SCR & Tox's approach is to facilitate the collaborative utilization of biological and technical resources from a large consortium of pharma, biotech, academic and research organizations across Europe including the UK's Stem Cell Bank. The resources combined with the expertise gleamed from the high profile collaborators is facilitating the selection of appropriate cellular pathways to develop toxicity assays now, before incorporation into prototypes for industrial application. ISTEM's Paris facilities are poised for rapid advancement of their findings with the availability of high-throughput automation and development technologies capable of scalable production process development and screening. They already use their facilities for fully automated, large scale reprogramming of pluripotent stem cells into cardiomyocytes, hepatocyte like cells and full epidermis production for use in drug toxicity models.

It's possible that in the not so distant future, many animal studies may be replaced with cell and engineered tissue models. What are your thoughts?

By Vishal Sharma (UCL)

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