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----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Cosmetic companies that test their products on animals are a regular target of animal right activists. But actually, cosmetic companies don't like animal testing, either -- it's inefficient, often inhumane, and a public relations nightmare. Thanks to new research out of the University of Cincinnati, it may not be necessary at all. Researchers at UC's James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy have developed a mathematical system for understanding and even predicting the effect of chemical compounds on organic tissue like human skin.

The research could lead to that don't harm animals. So why do cosmetic companies test on animals in the first place? As Amy Shira-Teitel explains in today's DNews report, they've more or less had to -- in the U. S. , anyway. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate most of the products we consider cosmetics -- which includes items like shampoo and toothpaste, by the way. As such, it's up to the companies themselves to make sure products are safe before they hit the market. Cosmetics must be tested to determine any short or long term dangers when in contact with the skin, the lungs or the digestive tract. Companies can't test new products directly on humans, unless they're in, so animal testing is the only other choice.

Until recently. The Cincinnati study is part of a growing research movement toward creating laboratory and computer models for virtual testing of cosmetics and other consumer products. Some emerging techniques don't require lab work at all. For example, certain mathematical equations can actually determine, based on prior research, whether a chemical compound will penetrate skin or induce an allergic reaction. Different countries are taking different approaches to the dilemma. Some European nations have banned animal-tested products entirely. On the other hand, China actually requires animal testing on certain kinds of products.

No one has bothered to poll the lab rat and guinea pig communities, but presumably they're in favor of virtual testing. -- Glenn McDonald Read More: Huffington Post: Eureka Alert: Discovery News: While contributing to our understanding of diseases, animal models also enable researchers to explore potential therapies in ways which would be impossible in humans. Studying disease mechanisms in animal models leads directly tothe development of new technologies and medicines that benefit both humans and animals. Animals which are altered to create models of disease are known as induced models.

For example, surgery which damages a particular section of the spinal cord in rats gives rise to symptoms like those seen in human patients with similar spinal cord damage. These animal models help researchers understand what happens in the body following this type of damage, and have been used in the development of new therapies. Recent advances in genetic technology have allowed the development of transgenic animals, which have new genes inserted into their DNA, allowing them to develop human diseases which do not naturally affect them. In particular this has allowed mice to model many human diseases which were previously difficult to study.

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