The End Of Cosmetic Animal Testing?

The testing of cosmetics on animals has increasingly fallen out of favor over the years. Many American beauty companies voluntarily avoid the practice, and in 2009, the European Union agreed to ban cosmetic animal testing.

By the time full compliance with the ban is expected in the next few years, there may be a way to test ingredients and products with a special method that essentially mimics human cell response without ever touching a person or animal.

UK company Kirkstall is developing a cell culture system that offers an alternative to not only animal testing, but to the restrictive alternatives that currently exist. Manufactures who already reject animal testing often experiment on human volunteers, or they use ingredients that have-or sometimes haven't-been previously proven effective.

Kirkstall's system features a "quasi-vivo" (literally: as if living) technique that accurately replicates a chemical's effect on the body. Based on linked modules of multiple types of cells, the technology can identify what endpoint-such as irritation, toxicity or a positive improvement-an ingredient may provoke in a cell.

This approach has sparked the interest of numerous companies effected by the EU cosmetic animal testing ban, many of whom also operate in the US.

Although the US has yet to ban cosmetic animal testing, public opinion and a viable substitute like the one Kirkstall is developing may be the motivation companies need to voluntarily stop this frowned-upon practice.