Using Biochips Instead of Animals for Testing
Given that the cosmetics sector in Europe will experience a ban on animal testing to be phased in by 2009, new ways of testing cosmetics will become even more important. Not only that, but new approaches to testing can also mean reduced animal testing for medical purposes.
The most recent development is an exciting one because it can allow a very quick analysis to provide assurance that a cosmetic product is safe for human use. A biochip is made up of more than one thousand human cell cultures. Suspended in a special three-dimensional gel and utilised on a slide to be viewed under the microscope, an individual cell culture can investigate if a specific chemical is toxic to humans. With the biochip, researchers can use this technology to find out if certain chemicals irritate the skin or cause toxicity in humans.
Extending the Uses of a BiochipEven more exciting news about the biochip is that scientists can add in other kinds of cells. In this way, a researcher could add in a lung cell, for instance, which would then check if the chemical is toxic to lungs. This new technology now allows for scientists to assess the toxicity of a chemical on multiple organs, rather than just skin alone.
With important legislation that mandates the use of toxicity testing for drugs and metabolites in the chemical industry, the biochip will allow drug companies to quickly analyse chemicals and determine how their metabolites affect human cells. The biochip also carries other benefits such as a reasonable cost, rapid output and of course, it does not require the use of animals for testing. By addressing the issues of how a drug affects different body cells as well as how toxicity may occur once the human body metabolises the drug, the biochip is a promising alternative to animal testing.