British scientists have developed a simple new lab-based skin test that can predict a person’s risk of having a negative reaction to new drugs, cosmetics, and even household chemicals.
The “Skimune” test, engineered by a Newcastle University team, examines human skin and immune cells for any evidence of a reaction — such as a rash or blistering — indicating an immune response within the body.
The test offers a reliable alternative for the cosmetic industry to animal testing of new products, now restricted in Europe. But it may also have wider consumer and commercial applications, say its developers.
"This skin assay offers an accurate and rapid alternative to animal testing and provides the bridge between the laboratory tests for novel drugs and the first stage of clinical trials in humans,” said Anne Dickinson from the Institute of Cellular Medicine, who recently presented the technology at the In-Vitro Testing Industrial Platform conference in Brussels.
"It is accurate and faster than anything currently around and can save companies time and resources. The test identifies drugs or products which are likely to cause a reaction or just not work effectively in humans."
The test has been successfully tried by several pharmaceutical companies on drugs in development and provides a reliable result within two weeks, researchers said.
"We've already shown this works as a way of testing new drugs for adverse immune reactions that can't be identified when tested in animal models," said Dickinson.
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