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The goal of animal testing alternatives are to reduce the amount of animals used in testing methods, refine the methods so that they cause less pain, and ultimately replace animals entirely. Scientists at the University of Liverpool have discovered a way to use protozoa, or single-celled organisms, to replace animals in toxicity testing of cosmetics.

The method is still in its early stages of use, but the method seems straightforward, as reported by Live Mint.

“The scientists were able to examine potential toxicity caused by mascara, based on the growth of the protozoa when placed in experimental chambers containing the cosmetic. Six different brands of mascara were tested, by painting it on small glass plates and placing these in the chambers. The protozoa and their food were then added. The protozoa — the slipper ciliate (Paramecium caudatum) and the eyelash ciliate (Blepharisma japonicum) — were chosen carefully because of their large size, their historic use as model organisms, and their genetic similarities to humans,” according to the publication.

Dr. David Montagnes, the Liverpool project’s supervisor, said that if there was toxicity in the substance, the protozoa grew slower than if there were no toxins present.

Before the test can truly replace animal methods, he says, “It would have to be compared to real animal testing and to, I would suggest, these epidemiological studies where we’re looking at people [who have used the cosmetics].”

The use of protozoa also has the potential to lend itself to testing other cosmetics like lipstick and perfume. Montagnes says, “When you can develop a simpler and cheaper alternative, there is really no need to test cosmetics on animals.”

We hope to see this technology develop into an industry standard to replace animal testing for cosmetics, which is already on the way out in many countries like India and the member states of the European Union. In the meantime, be sure to check out our cruelty free guide to mascara for humane cosmetic shopping tips!

Image Source: Benny Mazur/Flickr