News Release

blu research suggests potential breakthrough in future e-liquid classifications

Innovative in-vitro research using GARD assays can help detect known allergens

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Imperial Brands

blu E-liquid Risk Assessment Process

image: An infographic highlighting our rigorous approach to e-liquid stewardship. view more 

Credit: blu / Imperial Brands

A new study* suggests that Genomic Allergen Rapid Detection (or GARD) in-vitro assays can be used to differentiate and classify vape e-liquids, as well as detect allergens potentially present in ingredients.

Dr Grant O'Connell, Head of Scientific Affairs at Imperial Brands, explains: "GARD assay testing represents another important step in our commitment to cutting-edge e-vapour research, and forms part of our ambition to build a next-generation scientific assessment framework partly based on the US National Research Council's blueprint for Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century (TT21C)**.

The availability of a broad range of e-liquids plays a crucial role in both attracting adult smokers to vaping and retaining them within the category. This, in turn, contributes to declining smoking rates and tobacco harm reduction. However, it's important that e-liquid flavourings and their ingredients are guided by rigorous toxicological principles, as some constituents can be allergenic.

Demonstrating our continued commitment to leading-edge science and the manufacturing of high-quality products that safeguard consumers, blu scientists assessed the possibility of using Genomic Allergen Rapid Detection (GARD) assays to potentially raise standards in this area. These assays were originally developed to assess the sensitisation potential of compounds in the chemical manufacturing industry, but this pioneering research is the first vaping-related application.

For the study, scientists used the GARD testing approach to compare the respiratory and skin sensitising potential of five e-liquids, with initial results indicating the assays were indeed successfully able to differentiate and classify those products assessed.

Matthew Stevenson, In-Vitro Research Manager at Imperial Brands and study author, comments: "While further studies need to be conducted to assess how GARD assays could be used for the rapid screening and toxicological assessment of e-liquids in support of future product development and commercialisation, our initial success represents an exciting first step on the path to a potential entirely new way of assessing and classifying future e-liquids."

O'Connell concludes: "TT21C advocates the use of in-vitro testing, preferably using human cells, as a replacement for traditional in-vivo animal testing and this is in keeping with blu and Imperial's established position of not testing our products on animals***.

"By uplifting our scientific capabilities through the likes of TT21C we are continuing to protect our consumers while raising standards across the wider vaping category to provide something better for the world's smokers."


This study was made available online in January 2019 ahead of final publication in print in April 2019.

* 'The use of Genomic Allergen Rapid Detection (GARD) assays to predict the respiratory and skin sensitising potential of e-liquids'


*** Unless formally required to do so by governments or recognised regulatory authorities.

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