Hurel Corp., with funding from cosmetics maker L'Oreal, is designed to replace tests on mice and guinea pigs used to predict skin reactions from drugs and cosmetics. The device uses laboratory-grown human skin cells to simulate the body's allergic response to foreign chemicals. Preliminary experiments show promise, but rigorous tests are still needed to determine the technology's accuracy.
The standard method for testing allergic reactions involves applying chemicals to the ears of mice, which are later killed and dissected for study.
Hurel Corp., North Brunswick, N.J., has developed a new test method that it maintains can eliminate cosmetic safety tests performed on mice and guinea pigs. L'Oréal provided funding for the test.
The product from Hurel consists of a glass chip with human skin cells and chemicals that simulate the body's immune system. When a foreign substance is dropped onto the chip, the cells and chemicals interact to mimic the human body's natural allergic response.
The product is still in development, but Hurel officials say a working prototype should be available by the second half of next year. In addition to cosmetics, the technology could be used to test household cleaners and pesticides.
Hurel Chief Executive Robert Freedman said it is too early to estimate the price or sales figures for the chip, but he pegs the market for a non-animal allergy test at $2 billion a year.