Tag Archive for: difficult-to-test

Exploration of the GARDskin applicability domain: Indirectly acting haptens, hydrophobic substances and UVCBs

Joint publication with the Lubrizol Corporation

ALTEX – Alternatives to animal experimentation, published April 21, 2022, accepted manuscript, https://doi.org/10.14573/altex.2201281

Forreryd, A., Gradin, R., Humfrey, C., Sweet, L. and Johansson, H.


Hazard assessments of skin sensitizers are increasingly being performed using new approach methodologies (NAMs), with several in chemico, in vitro and most recently also defined approaches (DAs) being accepted for regulatory use. However, keeping track of potential limitations of each method in order to define applicability domains remains a crucial component to ensure adequate predictivity as well as facilitating the appropriate selection of method(s) for each hazard assessment task. The objective of this report is to share test results generated with the GARD™skin assay on chemicals that have traditionally been considered as difficult to test in some of the conventional in vitro and in chemico OECD Test Guidelines for skin sensitization. Such compounds may include, for example, indirectly acting haptens, hydrophobic substances, and substances of unknown variable composition or biological substances (UVCBs). Based on the results of this study, the sensitivity for prediction of skin sensitizing hazard of indirectly acting haptenswas92.4%and 87.5%, when compared with LLNA(n=25)and human data(n=8), respectively. Similarly, the sensitivity for prediction of skin sensitizing hazard of hydrophobic substances was 85.1% and 100%, when compared with LLNA(n=24)and human data(n=9), respectively. Lastly, a case study involving the assessment of a set of hydrophobic UVCBs(n=7) resulted in a sensitivity of 100, as compared to available reference data. Thus, it was concluded that these data provide support for the inclusion of such chemistries in the GARD™skin applicability domain, without an increased risk of false negative classifications.

Key words: GARD, GARDskin, skin sensitization, applicability domain, difficult to test substances, Indirectly acting haptens, hydrophobic substances, UVCBs


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Applicability domain of the GARD™skin Medical Device test for in vitro skin sensitization testing of medical devices

Poster presented at SOT 2021

Joshua Schmidt, Ron Brown and Rose-Marie Jenvert
SenzaGen Inc., Raleigh, NC, USA, Risk Science Consortium LLC, Arnold, MD, USA, SenzaGen AB, Lund, Sweden.

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  • The chemical space of compounds tested in GARD closely approximates the chemical space of compounds known to be released from medical device materials.
  • GARDskin is able to predict the skin sensitization potential of compounds released from medical device materials with a high degree of sensitivity and specificity, including: metals, lipophilic compounds and pre/pro haptens.


Medical device toxicology is undergoing an exciting evolution; transitioning from a process that largely relied on the results of animal testing to evaluate the biological safety of devices in patients to one which is increasingly focused on the use of in vitro methods for the safety assessment of device materials.

Recently, in vitro methods to assess endpoints such as skin irritation and pyrogenicity have been validated and proposed for medical device testing, but a method to assess the potential for device-related skin sensitization to occur has not been sufficiently qualified. A number of in vitro skin sensitization test methods have been shown to have acceptable predictive ability for known skin sensitizers with structures that span a broad range of chemical classes, but the predictive ability of these methods has not been specifically evaluated using compounds typically found in materials used to manufacture medical devices. As a result, the need exists to qualify in vitro methods to assess the skin sensitization of compounds that may be released from medical devices, taking into account the applicability domain of known or potential skin sensitizers, including metals.

To address this challenge, the predictive ability of the GARD assay has been evaluated using a dataset of compounds known to be released from device materials.  Against these data, the assay correctly predicted 19 out of 21 lipophilic and pre-/pro-hapten compounds (90.5% accuracy), with one false positive (95.2% sensitivity) and one false negative (95.2% specificity) being predicted, thus increasing the confidence in use of this in vitro assay to assess the skin sensitization potential of medical devices.  Furthermore, we have also demonstrated that the GARD assay correctly predicts the skin sensitization response of nickel and cobalt salts (sensitizers) and a zinc salt (non-sensitizer). Overall, our data support the use of the GARDskin Medical Device assay as an in vitro alternative for the in vivo methods (e.g., GPMT, LLNA) that are typically used to assess skin sensitization as part of the biological safety assessment of medical devices.

Applicability of GARD™skin for Accurate Assessment of Challenging Substances in the Context of Skin Sensitization Testing

Poster presented at ACT 2020

J. Schmidt, A. Forreryd, H. Johansson, J. Li, A. Johansson
SenzaGen, Inc., Raleigh, NC, USA, SenzaGen AB, Lund, Sweden

Link to the poster



  • GARDskin demonstrated an overall high applicability for the evaluated challenging substances with 80% predictive accuracy compared to existing human data.
  • GARDskin demonstrated excellent applicability for pre/pro-haptens and low water solubility substances, correctly classifying all such compounds in the herein investigated dataset.
  • GARDskin also showed high applicability for assessment of surfactants with 89% predictive accuracy compared to existing human data, correctly classifying 8 out of 9 internally tested surfactants, including well known challenging ones such as Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS) and Benzalkonium chloride.


Current legislations and trends in predictive toxicology advocate a transition from in vivo methods for hazard and risk assessments to non-animal alternatives. However, certain groups of chemicals, including substances with severe membrane-damaging properties, pre- and pro-haptens, and those with high log P ratios, have been shown to be challenging to assess using cell-based assays in the context of skin sensitization testing. The aim of this study was to evaluate the applicability of GARDskin for such challenging substances, using an overlapping subset of chemicals previously tested in an integrated tested strategy (ITS) based on validated, aqueous in vitro assays, as well as in a series of Reconstructed Human Epidermis (RHE)-based assays.

The GARDskin assay (Genomic Allergen Rapid Detection) is a robust in vitro assay for identification of potential chemical skin sensitizers with over 90% prediction accuracy and broad applicability. The assay is included in the OECD Test Guideline Program (OECD TGP 4.106) and has gone through a formal validation study. The assay evaluates the gene expression of endpoint-specific genomic biomarkers in a human dendritic-like cell line following exposure to the test substance. Exposure-induced gene expression patterns are analysed using pattern recognition and machine-learning technology, providing classifications of each test item as a skin sensitizer or a non-sensitizer.

The applicability of GARDskin for a total of twelve challenging substances, including pre- and pro-haptens, low water-soluble substances, two surfactants and three additional substances known to have conflictive results when comparing in vitro and in vivo data were evaluated in this study. All twelve substances were selected from the Mehling et al. 2019 publication which reported results from three OECD validated in vitro methods, the “2 out of 3” Integrated Testing Strategy, three RHE-based models and the murine local lymph node assay (LLNA). Human potency classification was available for ten out of the twelve substances.

The GARDskin prediction results were reported from previously published studies, or from in house validation studies. Predictive accuracies were calculated by comparing skin sensitization classifications from different test methods to the available human data of each substance respectively. (N=10). To further explore and substantiate the GARDskin applicability for surfactants, additional GARDskin data for a total of nine surfactants are presented in order to complement the Mehling dataset with respect to the availability of human data.

The GARDskin assay demonstrated overall high applicability for the evaluated challenging substances, with 80% predictive accuracy compared to existing human data. GARDskin correctly classified all pre-and pro-haptens and low water-soluble substances in the data set. Furthermore, high applicability of GARDskin for severe membrane disruptive substances such as surfactants was demonstrated, with 89% predictive accuracy compared to existing human data.


Exploration of the GARD applicability domain – Skin sensitization assessment of UVCBs

Poster presented at Eurotox 2018 in collaboration with Lubrizol

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U. I.Torstensdotter Mattson1, C. Humfrey2, O. Larne1, H. Johansson1, L. Sweet3 1SenzaGen, Lund, Sweden, 2Lubrizol, Derbyshire, United Kingdom, 3Lubrizol, Ohio, United States of America


This case study demonstrates the broadening of the applicability domain of the GARD assay when assessing UVCBs.


In this study, four test items were evaluated. All the test items were “Unknown or Variable composition, Complex reaction products and Biological materials” materials (UVCBs), which were provided by Lubrizol and selected based on existing in vivo data (internal Lubrizol data). Skin sensitizing hazard was assessed using the GARDskin assay, and the GARDpotency assay for further subcategorized the sensitizers into strong 1 A) or weak 1 B) sensitizers according to GHS/CLP classification. The GARDskin predictions for test items 1, 2, 3 and the GARDpotency classifications for test item 2 and 3 were consistent with the in vivo data, whereas test item 4 showed inconsistency between the in vitro and in vivo methods. These results indicate the importance of screening a panel of different vehicles or mixtures thereof, in order to choose the appropriate solvent For one of the Test items, the DMSO extraction procedure generates a negative prediction while the experimental vehicle mixture, Glycerol and DMF, classifies the chemical as a skin sensitizer This case study demonstrates the broadening in applicability domain of the GARDassays when assessing UVCBs.