Allergic skin reactions consist of various distinct, biochemical processes. Firstly, a substance binds to proteins on the surface of skin cells. This then results in a stress reaction inside the cells.
The allergic potential of various substances is usually tested in animal studies. BASF and Promega, Ludwigshafen and Mannheim, Germany, developed a novel cell line to detect cellular stress reactions directly in a test tube. They inserted a modified reporter gene (luciferase) stably into human skin cells. This reporter reacts to cellular stress-induced changes by converting them into a luminescent signal. Thereby stress reactions can be easily detected. Furthermore, the determination of the allergic potential of various substances is more reliable than in the alternative animal tests.
The assay has been sent to the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM). This commission will decide whether it can be used as a standard method for future studies. This is of particular importance since due to REACH regulation several thousand substances have to be tested for their skin sensitizing action by 2018.
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