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During the last years, illegal cosmetics flood the EU market via internet and a so-called 'black market'. An important group of illegal cosmetics consists of skin bleaching agents, which are usually applied to the skin of the face, hands and other parts of the body for depigmentation of hyperpigmented regions, but more importantly, for general reduction of the skin tone. These cosmetic products contain illegal active substances that may provoke as well local (ochronosis, irritant dermatitis, leukoderma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) as systemic toxic (nephrotic and liver problems) effects, being the reason for their banning from the EU market. As no reliable information is available on the dimension of the problem and the harmful effects for the consumers, the IVTD group and the Scientific Institute for Public Health (WIV-ISP) started the collaborative research project ILCOS.

Allergen-specific immunotherapy is the only causal treatment for allergic disorders and is effective for aeroallergens (e.g. pollen), food ingredients and hymenoptera venom allergy (bee/wasp). However, the grade of clinical efficacy to date is only about 30% and severe side-effects can occur. 

Stem cells harbour the potential to provide major breakthroughs in a number of dermatologic conditions and applications, such as chronic wounds, repair of tissue defects, skin reconstitution or skin rejuvenation. Moreover, stem cells have an impact on innate and adaptive immune responses, which warrants the evaluation of their role in autoimmune and allergic processes.

In allergic diseases (e.g. allergic asthma, atopic and contact eczema) the immune system reacts towards harmless environmental substances, such as pollen-derived proteins or the proteins from dust mites. In autoimmune diseases, such as in lupus erythematosus or multiple sclerosis, healthy human tissue is attacked by own immune system.