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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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A Compartment Model to Calculate Timedependent Concentration Profiles of Topically Applied Chemical Compounds in the Anterior Compartments of the Rabbit Eye


Heike Pospisil and Hermann-Georg Holzhütter

Hitherto, none of the existing in vitro methods has been convincingly demonstrated to be suitable as a replacement for the Draize rabbit eye irritation test. We examine the hypothesis that one reason for this is that insufficient consideration has been given to the differences in the effective concentrations at which chemicals operate in vitro and in vivo. When a chemical is applied topically to the eye, the strength of the observed irritation that it elicits depends both on its toxic potential toward cells or tissues, and its effective concentration in the tissues of the eye. Most of the existing in vitro methods are based on isolated cells or tissues, and thus may be useful in assessing the cytotoxic potentials of chemicals. However, a reliable approach to assessing the effective concentrations of chemicals within the various tissues of the eye is lacking. A simplified compartment model is presented for calculating the time-dependent, intra-ocular concentration profiles of topically applied chemicals. The model encompasses the outer surface of the eye, three distinct segments of the cornea (subdivided into the epithelium, stroma and endothelium) and the conjunctiva. Transport through the membranes of these compartments is described as passive diffusion. For the transport coefficients, rate equations are established that contain, as free parameters, the molecular size and the partition coefficient of the chemical, as well as some intrinsic membrane parameters, such as thickness, viscosity and pore density. Numerical values for the unknown membrane parameters were estimated by fitting the theoretical rate equations to measured permeability coefficients. The compartment model was applied to an independent set of 52 test chemicals compiled from the European Commission/UK Home Office validation study. The calculated passage times (required to let 95% of the chemical reach the posterior eye tissues) varied between 0.33 minutes and 50.6 minutes, and are generally much shorter than the typical duration of observed impairments in the cornea or conjunctiva. This finding suggests that short-term contacts of the eye tissues with a chemical are sufficient to elicit long-term eye irritation. An example is given, showing how the conventional approach of using in vitro endpoints as predictors of eye irritation can be improved significantly by incorporating into the prediction the calculated intra-ocular concentration of a chemical.