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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Development of a Sensory Neuronal Cell Model for the Estimation of Mild Eye Irritation


Johanna Lilja and Anna Forsby

In an attempt to improve the in vitro test strategy for the estimation of eye irritation, a neuronal cell model has been developed, with cells expressing vanilloid receptor type 1 (VR1) nociceptors. The currently accepted method for measuring eye irritancy is the ethically and scientifically criticised Draize rabbit eye test, despite the fact that alternative in vitro methods are available which have proved to be reliable and reproducible for predicting severe ocular toxicity. However, no alternative tests for measuring neuronal stimulation have yet been developed, and the prediction of eye irritation in the mild range is therefore insufficient. VR1 is a nociceptor localised in C-fibre neurons innervating the cornea and the surrounding tissue, and it responds to potentially damaging stimuli by releasing Ca2+ into the cytoplasm. As a sensory endpoint, [Ca2+]i was measured in VR1 transfected cells, as well as in control cells. Short-term cell cytotoxicity studies (cell membrane rupture and morphological divergence) were used to determine the non-corrosive concentrations of the test chemicals. Preliminary results indicated that hygiene products used daily may induce eye irritation via VR1 nociceptors. The lowest toxic concentration (0.025%) of liquid hand soap, as determined by morphologic divergences of cells, generated an 80% increase in [Ca2+]i over the basal [Ca2+]i in VR1 transfected cells, whereas the non-specific [Ca2+]i increased by 33%. Furthermore, all the endpoints studied indicated that shampoo for children was less active than shampoo for adults. If this method is successfully validated with standardised reference chemicals, the model could complete the test battery of in vitro alternatives, resulting in the saving of thousands of laboratory animals.