Expanding the applicability domain of NAMs for skin sensitization testing: A case study using GARDskin for assessment of metals

Presented at the 12th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences, 2023

Andy Forreryd1, Robin Gradin1 , Olivia Larne1, Nissanka Rajapakse2, Henrik Johansson1, 1SenzaGen AB, Lund, Sweden; and 2Johnson Matthey, UK

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  • Limited data are currently available to support the inclusion of metals into the applicability domain of the OECD TG 442 series of assays.
  • GARD®skin (OECD TG 442 E) correctly predicted 11/12 metals in this study, including nickel which is a false negative in LLNA.
  • GARD®skin has the potential to reduce the need for animal testing for the endpoint of skin sensitization within the metal production and medical device sectors.



New Approach Methods (NAMs) for detection of sensitization have been validated and adopted as OECD TGs during the last decade. These assays target different Key Events (KE) in the AOP for skin sensitization and are increasingly being applied to replace animal models within different chemical sectors. However, further characterization of the applicability domain (AD) of these assays is critical to understand limitations and to facilitate regulatory uptake in other industrial sectors. Of particular interest from a scientific and regulatory perspective is the potential to use NAMs for assessment of metals, which have been proposed to act via alternative mechanisms to organic chemicals. The current study describes a joint effort by industry and assay developers to evaluate the AD of the GARDskin assay for metal compounds.  GARDskin is the first harmonised method utilizing a combination of genomics and machine learning for a regulatory endpoint and was recently adopted into OECD TG442E.

A selection of metal salts (n=13) was evaluated and the accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity for prediction of skin sensitizing hazard of metals were estimated to 92% (12/13), 100% (7/7) and 83% (5/6), respectively. Interestingly, transcriptomic analysis revealed almost identical response patterns in dendritic cells for metals and organic compounds, indicating a high similarity in the toxicity pathways driving classifications. In conclusion, the result from this study supports the inclusion of metals into the AD of GARDskin, which is an important step to ensure scientific/regulatory confidence to reduce the need for animal testing within the metal production and medical device sector.