Updates of ongoing research collaborations between National Toxicology Program (NTP) partner agencies were in the spotlight at the Dec. 14-15 Board of Scientific Counselors (BSC) meeting. From exploring the bugs in our guts to documenting chemical exposures in the workplace, the partnerships are proving to be productive scientific collaborations.
Chemical exposures and the microbiome
NTP researchers and colleagues at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) are assessing the impact of toxic substances on the microbiome, which is the diverse microbial community within and on the human body.
Carl Cerniglia, Ph.D., director of the NCTR Division of Microbiology, briefed the board on efforts to discover how exposures to hazardous chemicals affect the microbial ecosystem in the human gastrointestinal tract. Using several of the newest technologies in genetics and biology, the project seeks to modernize microbiome research and include it in toxicity testing for human health risk assessment.
Some of the compounds being studied are silver nanoparticles, arsenic, aloin-aloe vera, bisphenol A, and triclosan-triclocarban. “We want to integrate all of this information and gain a lot more knowledge and understanding of the effects of these chemicals on the microbiome and the human body,” said Cerniglia.
The NTP partnership with FDA and NCTR was also illustrated by the board’s warm recognition of the retirement of Paul Howard, Ph.D., who has served as the FDA and NCTR liaison to the panel for the past 10 years.
Common interests, common goals
Elizabeth Whelan, Ph.D., the board’s liaison to another partner agency, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), presented an update on collaborative research with NTP (see text box).
She outlined the history, goals, and results of the long-standing relationship between the agencies. “We have the skills, and the expertise and the legal authority to go into workplaces and get records and take samples,” she observed. “We want to study high-priority chemicals, and so does NTP.”
NTP Associate Director John Bucher, Ph.D., praised the long-term association. “We have been able to use the ability of your group to get into workplaces to help us focus nominations, focus studies, and actually recreate exposure scenarios found in the workplace,” he told Whelan. “It’s been an enormously successful collaboration over the years.”
RoC and NICEATM developments
Ruth Lunn, Dr.P.H., director of the NTP Office of the Report on Carcinogens, updated the panel on the recent release of the 14th Report on Carcinogens (RoC). She also described a proposed new initiative to review antimony trioxide as a possible RoC listing. Antimony trioxide is a metalloid used widely in the production of flame retardants and some consumer products containing glass.
At this point, the proposal is a draft concept, which is an early stage of the RoC listing process. “The concept document is a tool we use for finding and communicating early on what we’re going to do,” Lunn explained. “Basically, it says we’re proposing to review the substance and why we’re proposing it.”
Warren Casey, Ph.D., the director of the NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM), described new efforts to update regulatory toxicity testing and reduce, refine, or replace use of animals in those tests.
New technologies and toxicity testing methods that do not use animals have made tremendous strides in recent years, he noted, and now effective outreach is a priority. “What we need to do is get the public more involved and do a better job of communicating the value that has been added for the potential to move away from animal testing,” he said.
(Ernie Hood is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)