The Animal Testing Debate: Will There Ever be a Solution?

In the regulatory world, consumer safety and product effectiveness are the most important factors in the approval process for all regulated products. In order to meet safety and efficacy standards, product manufacturers must test their products in some way in order to be assured there will be no short or long term safety issues. From ancient Greek civilization to modern-day laboratories, living animals have been found to be effective test subjects for new innovations in order to learn more about a new products’ qualities. However, animal testing has been scrutinized by animal rights activists, resulting in animal testing bans for cosmetics across various regions in the world. Product manufacturers who market in these regions must resort to alternative testing methods in order to receive approval. With the advent of the “cosmeceutical”, a cosmetic product containing biologically active ingredients, testing requirements are becoming far more rigorous, and accurate results are of the utmost importance. However, the EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics has removed this testing option.

Fortunately there may be an effective (possibly even more effective) alternative to animal testing. The Wyss Institute for biological engineering at Harvard University is currently developing a model of the human body embedded on a silicon chip. This silicon chip consists of small separated regions concentrated with human cells resembling specialized organs. These organs are all interconnected with small hollow tubes, and the cells are capable of performing all metabolic processes such as secretion and excretion in the same manner as full-sized organs. By having a fully functional human body replica, it would be possible to test the effects of cosmetic and pharmaceutical products on the human body without the need of other animal test subjects.