Exame.com visited the Natura laboratory, which for the past ten years has not tested on animals.
How can companies test cosmetics without animal cruelty? With 3D skin
São Paulo - Imagine that you are stuck inside a piece of equipment with your hands tied behind your back and only your head exposed to the outside environment. Your eyes burning like balls of fire, but there is nothing you can do, no screaming, no crying, no kicking: you are merely a guinea pig in an experiment. Hundreds of thousands of animals around the world are subjected to this cruel reality daily. But with public pressure, advances in the legislature, company support and the advancement of science and technology, things are changing.
Currently, there are many methods of laboratory testing that can be used instead of testing on animals. Instead of measuring how long it takes a chemical to burn through the cornea of a rabbit, manufacturers can now test this compound on 3D tissue structures produced from human cells, which are like the corneas. Therefore, there’s a shift from an inhumane "in vivo" animal testing technique to laboratory testing which does not afflict any animals.
In 2006, Natura was one of the first Brazilian cosmetic industry giants to eliminate animal testing. Since then, Natura has invested in lab infrastructure, modern equipment and has also hired of scientists who are experts in the area. To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, the company opened its toxicological analysis laboratory to EXAME.com journalists so they could witness close-up how safety tests are performed at the Cajamar plant, in São Paulo.
"We believe in a future without animal testing," says Vanessa Rocha, a Natura scientist. "However, developing new ingredients without testing on animals is an enormous technical challenge. In the past ten years, we have forged 20 partnerships with national universities and international research institutes to find alternatives. Hence developing 67 alternative methods to animal testing consequently ensuring the efficacy and safety of our products," she says.
The company has already filed 20 patents for new ingredients without testing on animals. The most modern methods of testing include sophisticated tests which use human cells and tissue (known as "in vitro"), advanced computer techniques which create models (known as "in silico" models), and studies with human volunteers. This thorough process ensures the safety and efficacy of the products and can take up to four months to be carried out.
Disclosure / Natura
A scientist analyzes culture cells at the Natura laboratory: the company has already filed 20 patents for new ingredients which have never been tested on animals.
Consisting of computer simulations, “in silico” is the first step of toxicology testing. By using a sophisticated tool which simulates not only human biology but also the progressive development of health problems, Natura scientists can analyze the chemical structure of new active ingredients and simulate their potential risks.
Scientists can predict how the ingredients within each cosmetic product will react in the body, by estimating the probability of a substance being dangerous or not, based on its similarity with other existing substances and their current knowledge of human biology. The chemicals are also evaluated based on their ability to cause side effects such as an increase in collagen, elastic fibers and or allergies.
“In silico”: scientists analyze the chemical structure of a new ingredient and simulate its risks using computational models.
After the computational simulation stage, the cosmetic products are biologically tested. This is one of the most exciting and sophisticated phases of the process. Scientists evaluate the behavior of cosmetics when applied to living 3D skin and corneal tissue harvested in a laboratory, taking into account both the positive and negative effects of the product application.
Artificial skin is obtained through the culture of cells, by means of a set of techniques that maintain cells and tissue alive “in vitro”, preserving most of their physiological, biochemical, and genetic properties. This process can be carried out in a laboratory by controlling certain conditions such as temperature, moisture, oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Disclosure / Natura
Cell culture: a set of techniques which allows scientists to keep cells and tissues “in vitro”, preserving most of their biochemical, genetic and physiological properties.
The cells can be isolated for “in vitro” culture from; blood, bodily fluids and from skin donors undergoing surgical procedures, when grown in an ideal environment (receiving the salts and substances needed for its growth) cells created in a laboratory function as independent units such as microorganisms like bacteria and fungi.
With this method, scientists can replicate the two layers of tissue that make up the skin - the epidermis (outermost layer) and the dermis (inner layer) - which are then used to evaluate the toxicity and efficacy of new cosmetic ingredients. It takes about 15 days to harvest two full layers of skin.
Complete skin 3D: epidermis (outermost layer) plus the dermis (inner layer).
When testing cosmetics for safety, scientists analyze, for example, if the new substance can cause cell death (cytotoxicity), if it can become dangerous or cause skin damage in the presence of sunlight (phototoxicity) or even if it can cause cancer in the long term (mutagenicity).
Data gathered from “in silico” and “in vitro” tests, helps scientists calculate the number of ingredients that are safe for use, considering their consumers, product type, and frequency of use. The last stage of testing is volunteer feedback.
Risk assessment: scientists estimate the number of ingredients that are safe for use, given their consumers, product type, and frequency of use. (Disclosure/ Natura)
Originally Posted by: exame.abril.com.br