Laboratory grown human cells can be used to classify chemicals as sensitizing, or non-sensitizing, and can even predict the strength of a potential allergic response, according to a recent research published in BMC Genomics.

To develop this alternative to animal testing, researchers from Lund University in Sweden used genome-wide profiling to measure the response of a human myeloid leukemia cell line to known chemicals. From this they defined a ’biomarker signature’ of 200 genes, which could accurately discriminate between sensitizing and nonsensitizing chemicals. By comparing this signature with the known action of these chemicals they claim to be able to predict sensitizing potency.

"Our lab-based alternative to animal testing, although in an early stage of production, is faster, outperforms present alternatives, and, because the cells are human in origin, is more relevant. It provides a way of ensuring the continued safety of consumers and users and, by identifying chemicals and products with low immunogenicity," said Professor Carl Borrebaeck, from the Department of Immunotechnology and co-author of the research.

According to the researchers, this method could be used to determine the sensitizing potential of ingredients used in the formulation of cosmetic products and then help to develop new hypoallergenic products.