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Breakthrough towards animal-free testing for chemicals that might cause skin allergies

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Feb 05, 2015

Today's adoption by the OECD of two new test guidelines will contribute to reducing the number of animals currently used worldwide to identify chemicals with the potential to trigger skin allergies.

The new JRC recommended test methods will support the identification of chemicals that can lead to allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), one of the most common occupational diseases. Skin allergies are a growing health problem and are estimated to affect already 20% of the population in Europe.

So far the potential of chemicals to induce skin allergies was tested on mice and guinea-pigs. The Direct Peptide Reactivity Assay (DPRA) and the KeratinoSensTM are the first non-animal tests adopted by the OECD to identify skin sensitisers, i.e. substances that will induce an allergic response following skin contact. The new non-animal methods measure in vitro important biological mechanisms that trigger skin allergies. The DPRA measures a chemical's reactivity towards synthetic peptides used as models for cellular proteins. The KeratinoSensTM measures the activation of protection mechanisms in human-derived keratinocytes, the most prevalent cells in the skin. The methods were developed by industry and went through the validation/evaluation process of the European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM). The JRC also led the process of development of the two test guidelines at the OECD.

The OECD Adoption of guidelines 442c and 442d will contribute to reducing the number of animals currently used at global level for the identification of skin sensitising chemicals.  In addition, in the EU the availability of these test methods will contribute to reducing the number of animals used to generate information on the skin sensitisation potential of about 25,000-50,000 substances that need to be registered under the 2018 REACH deadline. They are the first two in a series of in vitro methods that will gradually replace in vivo animal Test Guidelines on skin sensitisation

The OECD Test Guidelines are a collection of internationally agreed test methods used by government, industry and independent laboratories. They are used to determine the safety of chemicals and chemical preparations, including pesticides and industrial chemicals.