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August 20, 2013

Be Cruelty-Free Campaign Welcomes New In vitro Method That Could Replace Painful Rabbit Eye Tests In Cosmetics Industry

Humane Society International

  • The new test uses human cells from the tissue that covers the front of the human eye. Shutterstock

Exciting news in non-animal replacement research—Japanese scientists have developed an artificial human cornea that could potentially replace unethical and scientifically deficient eye irritation/corrosion tests on animals in the cosmetics, chemicals and pharmaceutical industries.

Since the 1940s, rabbits have been used in Draize eye tests in which chemicals are applied to their eye to measure resulting damage. The animals can suffer soreness, swelling, ulceration and even blindness. The lack of repeatability and human relevance of the tests are well known, relying on the subjective observations of technicians to score levels of eye damage.

Troy Seidle, HSI's Be Cruelty-Free campaign director, recently returned from a visit to Japan, where he addressed cosmetics regulators and heads of industry, and emphasized the scientific imperative of embracing non-animal test methods. It is clear that animal methods like the Draize eye test are not fit for purpose in the modern world where regulators and companies need accurate, reliable and human-relevant test results to produce safe products.

The new eye test—called the Human Corneal Epithelium model—potentially surpasses the limitations of animal testing because it uses human cells from the tissue that covers the front of the human eye (cornea). The means test results should be directly applicable to people. The 3-D model is grown on an ultra-thin collagen gel sheet, on which the toxicity of chemicals can be measured by counting the number of destroyed cells after application.

As well as avoiding animal suffering and species differences, the researchers report that it is also more cost-efficient than testing on animals. Validation and international acceptance could take a further three years; however, this new in vitro test could provide an exciting complement to other scientific advances made in the EU and elsewhere, allowing increasing use of alternatives to the Draize eye test.

HSI's Be Cruelty-Free campaign is leading efforts to end cosmetics animal testing around the world, including in Japan.  

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