Kosmoscience: Decades of animal testing with sunscreens or lotions has frazzled enough white lab-rats to start an ethical counter-revolution among bikini-clad sun worshippers of Rio’s famed Ipanema beach.
Because Los Beautiful will no longer to buy skin care products that involve any animal testing, the cosmetic industry has had to move fast to find non-invasive yet scientific ways of measuring the effects of UV light on human skin, to verify the effectiveness of chemical barriers in sunscreens designed to prevent skin cancer and premature aging.
As well as UV, scientists have had to come up with a new proxy for the way human skin will react near-infrared radiation (IR-A), which is felt as heat and comes not only from the sun but also from household appliances such as clothes irons and hair dryers.
The ingenious solution is to make use of discarded fragments of skin from Brazil’s booming plastic surgery industry. Leftovers from the “nip and tuck” trade can be used to measure IR-A, so satisfying the Brazilian fashionista who won’t hit the beach without a slather of Factor 50 — yet also needs to be certain no furry animals suffered for her perfect tan. The “Tan Plastic” solution has many scientific advantages over animal testing.
Kosmoscience, a Brazilian company that specializes in clinical trials of cosmetics, has developed a methodology replacing animal experiments with tests on fragments of human skin. Its research is supported by FAPESP’s Innovative Research in Small Business Program (PIPE) and has completed Phase 1, which is concerned with technical feasibility.
Kosmoscience has operated in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics markets for 14 years. It began as a spinoff from São Paulo State University’s Interdisciplinary Electrochemistry & Ceramics Laboratory (LIEC-UNESP) in Araraquara, Brazil. LIEC is headed by Professor Elson Longo and attached to the Center for Research and Development of Functional Materials (CDFM), one of the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs) funded by FAPESP.
Chemist Adriano Pinheiro, founder of Kosmoscience, was a member of Prof. Longo’s research group and mentored by Longo when the firm was established in 2003. Today, Kosmoscience has a staff of more than 50 people and operates internationally by exporting technical services and know-how to over 30 countries.
Kosmoscience, which has around 50 employees and exports its knowhow to countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia, is an acquisitive business. In 2014 it bought out KOLderma Company – Clinical Research Institute EIRELI – EPP. This company specialised in in-vitro researches in the skin area with cell cultures, molecular biology and human skin. Then in 2017 it acquired the GETS Laboratory, a reference in conduction of accelerated stability tests of cosmetics for industries worldwide. The amalgamated company is compliant with the Brazilian drug and cosmetic regulator ANVISA and its Stability Guide for Cosmetic Products.
The ethical challenge isn’t just to avoid animal testing, but to ensure human skin donors are happy too. Skin fragments used by Kosmoscience in its research are plastic surgery waste obtained with the consent of the patients concerned and the approval of the relevant Research Ethics Committee. There is no shortage of this material. Brazil ranks second worldwide in plastic surgery, according to data published by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) in June 2017. “Material normally thrown away is donated for research purposes,” says principal investigator and pharmacologist Samara Eberlin.
No lab test can completely simulate real-world conditions, she acknowledges, but skin fragments recently obtained from plastic surgery are a satisfactory proxy allowing them to study both UV and IR-A effects. In the next phase, these results will be used to develop biomarkers, which the firm will offer the cosmetics industry, extending the range of methodologies available for the study of new formulations
“Once the skin is removed, the tissue remains viable for seven to ten days in culture. The main alterations relating to aging, pigmentation and inflammatory response, among others, can be measured using this model,” she told a Brazilian reporter.
You can read more about this story by clicking here to see a piece by Brazilian reporter Suzel Tunes.