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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Comparative Evaluation of Five In Vitro Tests for Assessing the Eye Irritation Potential of Hair-care Products


Penny A. Jones, Ella Budynsky, Karen J. Cooper, Denise Decker, Heather A. Griffiths and Julia H. Fentem

This study compared five methods, the isolated rabbit eye (IRE), bovine corneal opacity and permeability (BCOP), EpiOcular™, fluorescein leakage (FL) and neutral red release (NRR) assays, for predicting the eye irritation potential of hair-care formulations. Ten shampoo and seven conditioner formulations of known ocular irritation potential were tested. Each group included a market-acceptable formulation as a comparative benchmark. Predictions of ocular irritation were made by using classification models (IRE, BCOP and EpiOcular assays) or by direct comparison with benchmarks (IRE, EpiOcular, FL and NRR assays). The BCOP assay was less sensitive than the IRE test in discriminating between formulations of different irritation potentials, and did not perform as well as the other assays in identifying mild formulations. All of the assays appeared to be better at discriminating correctly between the shampoos than between the conditioners. The EpiOcular assay showed the closest concordance between the in vivo results and the in vitro data from cell-based assays (particularly for shampoos). The FL assay also showed a high concordance (particularly for conditioners). There was a tendency for these in vitro assays to over-predict eye irritation potential, but there was no under-prediction and they were particularly successful at identifying mild  formulations. The NRR assay was less predictive with both shampoos and conditioners. The results from this comparative evaluation fully support the continued use of the IRE test as a suitable alternative to in vivo eye irritation testing in rabbits, although it also over-predicted the irritancies of several of the formulations. The value of using concurrent benchmarks (reference standards), appropriate to the materials being tested, in interpreting the data obtained from in vitro tests, was also demonstrated. Overall, the results indicate that further comparisons of the IRE, EpiOcular and FL assays are warranted using much larger numbers of test materials.