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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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A Two-centre Evaluation of the Human Organotypic Skin Explant Culture Model for Screening Contact Allergens

Cynthia L. Lehé, John J.L. Jacobs, Graham R. Elliott and Pranab K. Das

Animal models are considered to be the “gold standard” for determining the potential contact allergenicity of low molecular weight chemicals. However, governmental regulations and ethical considerations limit the use of animals for such purposes. There is therefore a need for in vitro alternative models. The human organotypic skin explant culture (HOSEC) model is reported to be a promising alternative method for the predictive testing of contact allergens. The accelerated migration of Langerhans cells from the epidermis upon exposure to contact allergens is used to identify chemicals that are potentially capable of inducing a delayed-type hypersensitivity. In the study described in this paper, the model was further refined, and used, in two independent laboratories, to screen 23 low molecular weight compounds of known classification for their allergenicity. Each laboratory was able to accurately detect the contact allergens, despite small variations in the protocols used. However, the classification of dermal irritants, which have often been falsely classified as allergens, varied between the two laboratories. Despite the current limitations of the HOSEC model, the accuracy of the predictions made (sensitiser or non-sensitiser) compare favourably with classifications obtained with commonly used animal models. The HOSEC model has the potential to be developed further as an in vitro alternative to animal models for screening for contact allergens.