Immunotoxicology: Opportunities for Non-animal Test Development

Emanuela Corsini and Erwin L. Roggen

At present, several animal-based assays are used to assess immunotoxic effects such as immunosuppression and sensitisation. The use of whole animals, however, presents several secondary issues, including expense, ethical concerns and relevance to human risk assessment. There is a growing belief that non-animal approaches can eliminate these issues without impairing human safety, provided that biological markers are available to identify the immunotoxic potentials of new chemicals to which humans may be exposed. Driven by the 7th Amendment to the EU Cosmetics Directive, the new EU policy on chemicals (the REACH system), proposals to update the European legislation on the protection of animals used in research, and emerging visions and strategies for predicting toxicity, such in vitro methods are likely to play a major role in the near future. The realisation that the immune system can be the target of many chemicals, resulting in a range of adverse effects on the host’s health, has raised serious concerns from the public and within the regulatory agencies. Hypersensitivity and immunosuppression are considered the primary focus for developing in vitro methods in immunotoxicology. However, in vitro assays to detect immunostimulation and autoimmunity are also needed. This review of the state-of-the-art in the field of in vitro immunotoxicity, reveals a lack of cell-based immunotoxicity assays for predicting the toxicity of xenobiotics toward the immune system in a simple, fast, economical and reliable way.
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