Scientists are hoping to replicate human physiology “in silico” (via computer model) to the point that animal testing is no longer necessary in the cosmetics industry, and UC researchers at the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy are part of the effort.
The college was recently awarded a three-year contract by Colipa (the European Cosmetics and Toiletries Association) to proceed with developing a computer model that could help identify skin allergens by predicting their absorption rates.
The project is part of a larger, worldwide attempt, with six to eight teams of scientists participating, to end a mouse skin sensitization test by 2013.
“There is no expectation that any one computer model will be able to replace an animal which is a full biological system, but a combination of well-designed tests that includes chemistry, biology and transport processes could do it,” says Jerry Kasting, PhD, UC professor of pharmacy and principal investigator for the project.
The association exists, Kasting says, to oversee safety testing and regulatory affairs for the cosmetics industry and to streamline product development by having consistent protocols much like those in the pharmaceutical industry.
“UC’s focus is to come up with a computer model for the purpose of skin sensitization risk assessment. Skin sensitization is also known as contact allergy, and the most frequent allergies are associated with fragrances and preservatives in the products,” he says.
For the past 15 years, mouse models have been the first screen for testing new products and ingredients.
“You certainly don’t want to use humans as the first screen. You want to have a screening process that has a high probability of success before you take it to the human study,” Kasting says.
Probabilities, of course, are a mathematical process; thus Kasting and postdoctoral fellow Sara Farahmand are working to mimic skin transport on the computer. Other groups are working on the chemistry and biology of skin allergy.
“I feel confident our model has the precision to be a very good alternative to animal testing,” says Farahmand, a pharmaceutics expert from Tehran, Iran, who worked in research and development for a cosmetics company there.
She came to UC, she says, because: “I think this model, our model, will have a huge impact on the industry.” The Colipa contract is approximately $130,000 per year for three years. The Winkle College of Pharmacy is working in conjunction with Procter & Gamble scientists on the project.
To learn more about the project and the involvement of the Winkle College of Pharmacy, contact Kasting at (513) 558-1817 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.