Whilst still in the early stages of development, the latest research demonstrates that the response of laboratory grown human cells can now be used to classify chemicals as sensitising, or non-sensitising, and can even predict the strength of allergic response, so providing an alternative to animal testing.
“Our lab-based alternative to animal testing, although in an early stage of production, is faster, out-performs present alternatives, and, because the cells are human in origin, is more relevant,” explained Professor Carl Borrebaeck.
“It provides a way of ensuring the continued safety of consumers and users and, by identifying chemicals and products with low immunogenicity, reducing the suffering due to eczema."
Response measured against known chemicals
The research, which was published in BMC Genomics, used genome-wide profiling to measure the response of a human myeloid leukemia cell line to known chemicals.
From this the researchers defined a 'biomarker signature' of 200 genes, which could accurately discriminate between sensitising and non-sensitising chemicals.
By comparing this signature with the known action of these chemicals they were also able to use this system to predict sensitising potency.
Since 2009, the 7th Amendment to the Cosmetic Directive banned testing of cosmetic products and ingredients on animals which means there is currently no way of ensuring new products are hypoallergenic, according to the researchers.
Animal testing restricted
European legislation restricts animal testing within the cosmetic industries, and companies are increasingly looking at alternative systems to ensure that their products are safe to use.
Allergic contact dermatitis can result in itching and eczema and is often due to repeated exposure to chemicals at work or in everyday life such as machine oil, detergents, soaps, and cosmetics.
Unless the source of the sensitizing chemical is found the resulting rashes can be an ongoing source of misery for the sufferer, thus the need for tests.
Borrebaeck said, "REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals) regulation requires that all new and existing chemicals within the European Union are tested for safety. The number of chemicals this includes is over 30,000 and is increasing all the time.”
The researchers believe that with further development, this alternative could be the answer to efficiently testing chemicals and products to regulate levels of safety.