The Lush Young Researcher Prize aims to recognise and reward those working to eliminate animal testing in science and cosmetics through their research. Kumiko Tatsumi, a student at Osaka City University Graduate Medical School, Japan, has won one of this year’s 13 prizes for her research into in vitro systems for evaluating the risk of chemically-induced liver injury.
The liver is what the human body uses to rid itself of toxins, which means it often the first place that suffers from adverse chemical reactions. This can be fatal, so it is vital that toxicity tests are carried out effectively.
Currently, these tests are mainly performed on animals, however this is proven to be ineffective and produces incorrect results around half of the time.
Kumiko explains: “The identification of hepatotoxicity potential in humans is mainly performed in animal models as various preclinical safety tests. However, the concordance between hepatotoxicity observed in animal tests and hepatotoxicity observed in clinical tests is only approximately 50%.”
This is because of the species differences between animals and humans. Testing chemicals and toxicity on human cells would be far more effective - and this is where in vitro tests come in.
Kumiko’s research uses a combination of in vitro (in a petri dish) and in silico (computer simulated) tests to evaluate human hepatotoxicity in the most realistic way possible. She hopes that by doing so she is taking steps towards an animal-testing-free future.
Kumiko is a member of five alternative testing groups, including the Japanese Society for Alternatives to Animal Experiments (JSAAE).
She says: “My dream is to be a front-runner in the development of in vitro models for human safety and efficacy.
“This research can realise that in vitro models using human cells are able to be a tool for the evaluation of human reaction to toxicity.”