Synthetic Skin 'Could End Animal Testing'
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A new safety test for cosmetics using human skin grown in the lab is set to spare thousands of rabbits and mice a life of pain and misery.

Experiments have shown Episkin - developed by scientists at the world's largest cosmetics company L'Oreal - predicted more accurately how a person was able to react to everyday products such as make-up than animal tests.

It is hoped the thin cream-coloured material that feels almost like rubber could even be used in medical research.

Estelle Tessonneaud developed Episkin with colleagues at L'Oreal's labs in Lyon using skin cells called keratinocytes left over from breast surgery. ... Although L'Oreal has been developing reconstructed skin since the 1980s the search for animal alternatives became urgent in recent months with the introduction of two pieces of legislation.

In December 2006 the European Union introduced REACH which calls for more than 10,000 chemicals used in cosmetics to be tested for skin irritancy by 2019.

At the same time the EU's cosmetics directive bans the use of animals in such tests from 2009.

At the moment all such experiments - including repeat testing when new products reach the market - is done using 20,000 animals a year, mostly rabbits. In addition 30,000 chemicals, many in use for years, require one-off skin allergy tests, using 480,000 mice.

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