Prize highlights alternatives to animal testing for toxicology

Two technologies which assess the impact of chemicals and pollutants on the lungs and skin without the need for animal testing are joint winners of the 2013 Lush Science Prize.

Now in its second year, the Lush Prize aims to stimulate research into human toxicology pathways, with the ultimate aim of replacing animals in product safety testing. A collaboration between the cosmetics company Lush and the Ethical Consumer Research Association, the prize recognises scientific advances in the field, rewards promising young researchers and supports initiatives in training, lobbying and public awareness.

The winners in each category were announced on 13th November at a gala dinner at Kings Place in London.

The 2013 winners of the Science category, with a prize of £25K each, are:
·        The Lung & Particle Research Group at Cardiff University: for their development of a model of the lung using human tissue, able to show cellular damage and changes in metabolic activity in response to toxins. The model has proven to be a viable alternative to the use of animals for safety testing aerosolised health, beauty and cleaning products, pesticides, herbicides and foodstuffs.
·        The QSAR & Molecular Modelling Group at Liverpool John Moores University: for their work developing chemistry-driven computational models for the prediction of toxicity of cosmetic ingredients. Their research focuses on defining the so-called Molecular Initiating Event within an ‘Adverse Outcome Pathway’ enabling chemical toxicity to be predicted. Recent work has looked at predicting skin sensitisation potency and respiratory sensitisation potential.  

The four winners of the Young Researcher category will each receive a prize of £12.5K to develop their research. They are:
·        Alice Limonciel and Lydia Aschauer, Innsbruck Medical University, who are working on the development of in-vitro human cell cultures and biomarkers able to predict kidney toxicity more effectively than existing pre-clinical animal-based tests.
·        Katja Reinhard, University of Tübingen, who has established in-vitro methods using donated human retina, to study its function and to perform efficacy and toxicity testing of substances applied to the eye.
·        Simona Martinotti, University of Piemone Orientale, who is investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which honey promotes skin repair, using an in-vitro model of human wound healing.
Lisbeth Knudsen, Professor of Toxicology at the University of Copenhagen was on the judging panel for the 2013 Lush Prize. She says: “Recognising and rewarding researchers who are developing alternatives to animal testing in toxicology is very important. The field itself is unfortunately quite conservative, with many regulators still demanding that things be done in the same way they were fifteen or twenty years ago. Similarly, students are still taught about animal testing, rather than being trained in more modern methods. I personally believe that testing in toxicology can be done in other ways, without the use of animals, and the more this can be encouraged, the better.”
Dr Kelly BéRubé, Director of the Lung and Particle Research Group at Cardiff University said: “We’ve found that using cultures derived from human tissue, we can produce robust results and avoid using animal models for our type of research. We’re now able to predict with very high accuracy what will happen in a human lung. We’re very excited about this work – and we want to encourage everyone to use human tissue systems in this type of experiment.”

Dr Steve Enoch of the QSAR & Molecular Modelling Group at Liverpool John Moores University said: “We would like to build on our work to extend it to other organs beyond the skin and lung and this award will help us do that. It’s also important for us to make other scientists in toxicology aware of computational approaches and how they can be integrated with other, non-animal, experimental data within the Adverse Outcome Pathway paradigm as viable, and predictive, alternatives to animal testing.”

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