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New strategies in the evaluation of allergenic molecules


The Dermatochemistry laboratory of the University Louis Pasteur’s Institute of Chemistry (Strasbourg 1) becomes a partner in the integrated European research project Sens-it-iv whose aim is to develop alternative methods to animal testing in the area of allergy.

Even though animal experimentation remains, for the moment, the most reliable way of testing the allergenic potential of a chemical substance, the wish of the European Union is to gradually reduce the number of animals used in toxicity tests. In 1996, a EU Directive on the protection of animals used for experimental purposes prohibits their use when valid, alternative testing methods exist. However, if the REACH -Registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals – legislation is instituted, 3000 chemical products marketed in Europe will have to be evaluated for their toxicological properties. (The objective of REACH is to ask the manufacturers to prove that the products they put on the market are harmless). In this context, it is of utmost importance therefore, to develop alternative strategies based on cell or tissue culture or computer modelling.

The objective of the Sens-it-iv project, which brings together 28 universities, institutes, companies and organisations, is to develop alternative in vitro methods that are able to evaluate the allergenic potential of a chemical substance without having to resort to animal testing. The ULP dermatochemistry laboratory, directed by Professor Jean-Pierre Lepoittevin, is the only chemistry laboratory taking part in the Sens-it-iv project. Its role (dedicated mostly to organic chemistry) will be to evaluate the chemical reactivity of different molecules and to study the reaction mechanisms between allergens (foreign substances capable of triggering an allergic reaction in the body) and cutaneous biomolecules (skin proteins). The results from each partnering laboratory will be gathered and pooled together in order to determine the structure and action of each chemical substance using the technique of bioinformatic simulation to ascertain their toxicity without using the animal experimentation model. The development of these alternative research methods concerns both contact allergens and respiratory allergens. Sens-it-iv takes on its full meaning given the increasing incidence of allergies observed in the European population.

The Sens-it-iv project is involved in the 6th EU Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FPRTD) and will be financed to the sum of 11 millions Euros for the period 2006-2010.

Maria Isabel Pellon Zarragoitia | alfa
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