Researchers at Lund University in Sweden recently developed a new method for testing allergic reactions without relying on animal models. The approach not only can help determine whether a substance can cause an allergic reaction, but can also predict how allergenic a substance is by providing information about what initiates allergies at the genetic level.
Given the prevalence of contact dermatitis in the population, the fact that cosmetics and household products can contain skin-sensitizing chemicals, and the European Union’s prohibition on animal testing for cosmetics, the need for animal-free alternatives for skin sensitization testing has never been greater.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Malin Lidstedt developed a new assay to examine skin sensitizing chemicals which expands on an existing alternative test called the Genomic Allergen Rapid Detection platform. This approach, recently published in ALTEX, looks at gene expression in human cells that are exposed to various chemicals. Out of over 30,000 possible targets, researchers identified 52 genes whose expression changes could predict how potent allergenic substances are.
The publication further noted that “in vitro data has so far shown to correlate well with and to perform equally well or better than animal models, especially when combined in an ITS [integrated testing strategy, or combinations of appropriate non-animal methods].”
According to Dr. Lidstedt, this important work was driven by a desire to reduce animal experimentation and a recognition of the inherent flaws in animal models. Lidstedt noted, “We are often asked ‛how good is your model compared with the mouse model?’ We don’t want to compare ourselves with that model, for ethical reasons, but also because animal models are not sufficiently good at predicting allergy in humans.”
This promising test will need to be validated to determine its reliability and relevance as a test method before it is more widely used. However, we are excited by the potential it represents to benefit both animals and humans.
READ MORE: Learn about the validation of alternative methods.
Source: Lund University. “New test method aims to predict allergenic potency of chemicals.” Science Daily, 29 May 2017.