A new method for testing allergenic substances without experimenting on animals

A research group of scientists at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have found an alternative to testing methods that do not involve animals. Around 20% of the population of the western world suffers from contact allergy which is allergy to substances such as nickel, or chemicals in perfumes, or preservatives. Many products must be tested, because contact allergy cannot be cured, the allergic person must know what is in the product so it can be avoided if necessary.

However, simply finding an alternative to animal testing is not the whole story, especially as the EU has anyway banned all cosmetics and ingredients testing on animals. Scientists must also find a test that can determine the extent to which a substance causes allergy.

The alternative that the Gothenburg scientists have developed involves using cultured skin cells. They have found out that allergenic substances react with keratin 5 and 14 in the skin, which then forms blebs which can be used to test whether a product is allergenic. The greater number of ‘blebbing’ cells, the greater the allergenic potential of the substance. This means that this new testing means has the potential to give a grade in terms of whether a substance is extremely, strongly, moderately or weakly allergenic. These results can then be used to determine safe concentrations of substances that come into contact with the skin.

Source: University of Gothenburg

First Published in December 2011


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