Context

Refinement, Reduction and Replacement of the use of animals in toxicity testing is of particular importance for the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry in Europe. Although important efforts have been made to decrease the need for animals in toxicity testing, the assessment of toxic effects of chronic exposure still requires the use of a relatively high number of animals. Aside from the ethical considerations, there is also a great need for suitable human cells to be used in toxicity testing, due to the often poor concordance seen between animal models and toxic effects in humans. Importantly, European cosmetic legislation will impose a complete ban on animal testing in Europe for cosmetic products and individual cosmetic ingredients after March 11, 2013.

In January 2011 the European Commission and European Cosmetics Association (COLIPA) have thus jointly launched  a European research initiative called SEURAT-1 (Safety Evaluation Ultimately Replacing Animal Testing) that includes six European collaborative research projects aiming at a common strategy “towards the replacement of current repeated dose systemic toxicity testing in human safety assessment”. The total funding for the cluster is 50 million €.

HeMiBio is one of the six research projects funded under the SEURAT-1 cluster umbrella, with the specific aim of developing a device that simulates the complex structure of the human liver, thus providing the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry with a standardised tool for preclinical toxicity testing.

 

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Endothelial cells (VE-cadherin in red and hepatocytes (HNF4alpha in green ) from pluripotent stem cells induced for hepatic differentiation. Image courtesy A. Luttun, KULeuven