Not only will this advance lead to fewer animals subject to tests that critics call cruel, it will also reduce product development costs. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently approved the procedure.
The human cell line activation test, or h-CLAT, method uses cells derived from human bone marrow rather than live animals to predict how human skin will react to chemicals.
Testing on cultured cells costs 1/50th of what using guinea pigs does, and takes only two days as opposed to four weeks, according to the Japanese companies. The method has potential for use in testing pharmaceuticals as well.
Shiseido and Kao began developing an h-CLAT procedure in 2003. Japan's National Institute of Health Sciences, fellow Japanese health and beauty product groups Kose and Lion, overseas competitors L'Oreal and Procter & Gamble and others later joined in the effort. The procedure they developed requires no proprietary materials or equipment and can be performed by any company.
"OECD approval is likely to lead to more companies using this testing method, which could become established as an international standard," says Hajime Kojima of the NIHS.