RIFM and IIVS to collaborate on non-animal tech to identify respiratory allergens


Maintaining healthy lungs is critical to our overall health and well-being.

The Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) works to ensure that we can safely enjoy our favorite fragranced products—while avoiding conducting new studies on animals.

But developing reliable in vitro (non-animal) methods to assess the allergenicity of fragrance ingredients to the airway tract has proven challenging. It is difficult, for instance, to distinguish airway irritants, which produce short-term effects, from potential sensitizers that may alter a person’s immune response.

To tackle this problem, RIFM is collaborating with the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS) to develop an in vitro test designed to assess potential respiratory allergens.

As part of this collaboration, IIVS will use human precision-cut lung slices (hPCLS) to highlight molecular pathways associated with respiratory sensitizers that are distinct from those of respiratory irritants and skin sensitizers. hPCLS are derived from lungs unsuitable for transplantation.

“Human lung slices retain all the cell types and native architecture of the human lung periphery and therefore offer a unique opportunity to study the effects of inhaled materials, including respiratory sensitizers,” says Dr. Holger Behrsing, Director of Respiratory Toxicology at IIVS. “We are enthusiastic about working with RIFM and their distinguished scientists on a topic of such great concern to the industry, clinicians, and consumers.”

“Respiratory irritation and sensitization are of great concern to numerous companies, including the fragrance industry,” says Dr. Anne Marie Api, Vice President at RIFM. “It is important for us to understand the underlying mechanism of this process so that companies can continue to develop and market products safe for home and personal use.”

To date, one limiting factor of using hPCLS is the availability of donor lungs. IIVS is investigating the use of cryopreservation (freezing) of the tissues to overcome this challenge.

Related: Ask a RIFM Scientist: If I Can Smell It, Is It Safe?