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New Methods Proposed for Testing Allergens Without Animals

Sofia Andersson (Univ. of Gothenburg)

Sofia Andersson (Univ. of Gothenburg)

A doctoral dissertation at University of Gothenburg in Sweden has outlined testing methods for allergenic substances that do not require the use of lab animals. Ph.D. candidate in chemistry Sofia Andersson (pictured right) defended the dissertation in Gothenburg earlier this month, and is working with the university’s business development office to advance the methods to market.

Andersson’s research describes the ability to capture cultured skin cells that cause blister-like reactions called “blebs” to test for allergenic substances. Contact allergies affect one in five people in Western countries, caused by small reactive chemical compounds, called haptens, that are thought to react with proteins in the skin.

Testing for allergens is an important production step for products in contact with human skin, such as lotions, jewelry, or cosmetics. The EU, however, has forbidden the testing of cosmetics on animals, and fully replacing animal tests is not a simple matter. Testing without animals has so far been able to determine only if a substance is or is not allergenic; it has not been able to determine the extent to which a substance causes allergy.

In her research, Andersson exposed cultured skin cells to test substances for 24 hours, then photographed the cells and counted the blebs. She found that the greater the number of blebbing cells, the more powerful the allergenic potential of the substance. Thus, the test could give a graduated response showing a strong, moderate, or weak allergenic substance.

Andersson says she is working with GU Holding, the university’s research commercialization office, to further develop the testing and analysis methods.

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