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J Pharm Sci. 2008 Jan;97(1):46-59.

Alternative methods for eye and skin irritation tests: an overview.

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Department of Fisiologia, Facultat de Farmàcia, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Joan XXIII s/n, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.


The evaluation of eye and skin irritation potential is essential to ensuring the safety of individuals in contact with a wide variety of substances designed for industrial, pharmaceutical or cosmetic use. The Draize rabbit eye and skin irritancy tests have been used for 60 years to attempt to predict the human ocular and dermal irritation of such products. The Draize test has been the standard for ocular and dermal safety assessments for decades. However, several aspects of the test have been criticised. These include: the subjectivity of the method; the overestimation of human responses; and the method's cruelty. The inadequacies of the Draize test have led to several laboratories over the last 20 years making efforts to develop in vitro assays to replace it. Protocols that use different types of cell cultures and other methods have been devised to study eye and skin irritation. Different commercial kits have also been developed to study eye and skin irritation, based on the action of chemicals on these tissues. This article presents a review of the main alternatives developed to replace the use of animals in the study of chemical irritation. Particular attention is paid to the reproducibility of each method.

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