Local start-up launches animal-free cosmetics testing platform


SINGAPORE – Local biotech start-up Revivo BioSystems has developed a cosmetics testing platform which mimics the flow of blood under the skin, paving the way for more companies to move away from animal testing.

The in-vitro platform, launched on March 2, makes the company one of the front runners in the emerging field of “organ-on-chip” technologies, which seeks to model – on small chips made of plastic, glass or silicon – how human organs work. 

These could make testing for drugs, foods and cosmetics in the lab more accurate and efficient.

In-vitro tests are performed in laboratories outside of human or animal bodies.

Revivo BioSystems’ platform has two devices that work together to evaluate the safety and efficacy of cosmetic products.

The first, known as the Revex chip, is a single-use plastic chip that has small channels that allow liquids to flow through. It has three chambers linked to these micro-channels, where human skin – taken, for example, from biopsies – can be placed and samples of the cosmetic product can be applied.

Synthetic substitutes for skin, created in laboratories, can also be used.

Four of these Revex chips can be put in a Relego collection device. As a liquid simulating human blood is pumped through these channels at body temperature (37 deg C), substances from the cosmetic product which have permeated through the skin sample and other proteins secreted by the skin cells dissolve in the fluid.

The fluid, and the substances it carries, is collected at preset time intervals. Its contents are analysed to show how the cosmetic product’s ingredients have interacted with the skin over time, to determine if the item is safe, or if it stands up to marketing claims.

Dr Massimo Alberti, chief executive and founder of Revivo BioSystems, said its dynamic platform is more accurate than traditional static cosmetic tests, which do not simulate the continuous flow of blood under the skin and can determine only the amount of permeated substances at a single point in time.

These static tests usually involve adding a test chemical to a reconstructed piece of human skin (made from cell cultures) that has the cosmetic product applied over it. As the chemical interacts with the skin, biological reactions occur and the substances formed can be analysed to determine if the skin reacted to the product in any way.

“Compared with other static systems which provide a very simplistic view of what is going on in the skin, our system allows us to look, over time, at what actually happens to the skin as it reacts to the cosmetic product,” said Dr Alberti.

Because the Relego collector is fully automated, the company said its platform reduces the man-hours needed to run in-vitro tests by up to 20 times.

It added that other cosmetic tests, such as those involving human volunteers where each is given a small dose of the product, still need to be performed.

With the enhanced accuracy and efficiency that the kit provides, Revivo BioSystems hopes that it will encourage more cosmetic companies to drop animal testing, which has already been banned in the European Union, South Korea and New Zealand.


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