The Draize test, which involves placing potential irritants into the eyes of rabbits to gauge potential reaction, has come under criticism in recent years. According to the Canadian Council on Animal Care, more than 2,600 rabbits were used in 1999 in experiments to test consumer products.
“In the last two decades, there’s been quite an effort to try to reduce the use of the Draize test, and ultimately eliminate it,” said Dr. Jacob Sivak, a biologist and optometrist. Dr. Sivak will conduct a five-year, $1.2 million research program to prove the bovine lens test is as reliable as the Draize test.
Dr. Sivak’s test takes a measure of the focusing power of the eye after exposure by shining lasers through the eyes of slaughtered cows.
The bovine test focuses light on the retina at the back of the eye. “We use the lens of the eye as a proxy for the cornea,” Dr. Sivak said. “But because it’s a lens, we can measure what’s happening to it optically.”
Dr. Jacqueline Sitwell, director, Health Canada’s new substance assessment and control bureau, commented, “We accept alternative information (to the Draize test) if (the new information) can be validated.”