ANN ARBOR — Research by the University of Michigan School of Public Health that seeks to identify better methods to predict the toxic effects of certain chemicals on reproduction and behavior in mammals, fish and avian wildlife is one of eight projects to receive a share of $11 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The project, “Cell-Free Neurochemical Screening Assays to Predict Adverse Effects in Mammals, Fish, and Birds,” led by Niladri Basu, assistant professor of environmental sciences at SPH, received $1.2 million to develop a high-throughput, cell-free testing system to help predict risks of toxic chemicals across species.

The study will determine how 60 chemicals impact the function of neurotransmitter receptors, enzymes and transporters — all critical in vertebrate reproduction and behavior — in 20 different organisms. The ultimate goal of the project is to create a mechanism for high-throughput toxicity testing that can be used to predict adverse health effects across species, including humans, that may be caused by environmental toxicants.

“There are more than 80,000 chemicals released into the environment, but to date we have had very few tools to assess the risks they pose,” Basu said.

“We’re interested in human health and ecological health but standard methods of testing on rodents may not always be applicable humans and to other species, such as fish and wildlife,” Basu said, adding that traditional lab methods of testing are time-consuming and costly.

Basu and his team received a Science to Achieve Results grant from the EPA. An agency news release states that the “grants will help universities develop fast and effective methods to test chemicals’ toxicity to people and the environment. These innovative testing methods will be used to predict a chemical’s potential to interact with biological processes that could lead to reproductive and developmental problems, and disruption of the endocrine system.

“The grantees will focus on developing methods and models to predict how exposure to environmental and synthetic (man-made) chemicals and chemical mixtures may harm the public. Some synthetic chemicals are known endocrine disruptors, which interfere with or even mimic natural hormones and cause damage to the development and function of vital organs, particularly in young children and developing fetuses. There are currently thousands of chemicals in use and hundreds more introduced every year.”

Read more about the research at this link.


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