NIEHS and National Toxicology Program (NTP) scientists shared new findings and methodological advances through approximately 100 scientific presentations at the Society of Toxicology (SOT) 57th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo March 12-15 in San Antonio.
“SOT is our chance to learn — and demonstrate — the latest in toxicology. NIEHS and NTP always shine,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and NTP.
Advancing alternatives to animal testing
In a standing-room only session, the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM), a committee under the NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM), continued the rollout of a Jan. 2018 strategic roadmap.
“The ICCVAM strategic roadmap is guiding the development of new toxicity tests that improve human relevance and replace or reduce the use of animals,” said NICEATM Director Warren Casey, Ph.D. “Importantly, the roadmap is driven by the same agencies that will ultimately utilize the methods.”
NICEATM Deputy Director Nicole Kleinstreuer, Ph.D., described progress implementing new skin sensitization tests. Skin sensitization is an important indicator of a chemical’s potential toxicity, she said.
According to Kleinstreuer, strategies using multiple nonanimal tests, such as a combination of cellular, chemical, and computational modeling, can perform the same as or better than the gold standard mouse model for testing skin sensitization.
Anna Lowit, Ph.D., from the Office of Pesticide Programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said skin sensitization is one of six types of studies, known as the 6-pack, used to assess short-term toxicity of pesticides.
“We have a strong commitment to reducing animal use and moving to more human relevant methods for the 6-pack,” said Lowit.
New vision for Tox21 collaboration
Contributors to the federal Toxicology in the 21st Century collaboration, or Tox21, developed high-throughput mechanized laboratory studies that have screened thousands of chemicals for potential toxicity. As they look toward the future, they are planning how to continue refining their methods.
“We are constantly improving our ability to use cell-based, or in vitro, tests to predict whether chemicals are toxic to humans,” said Richard Paules, Ph.D., acting head of the NTP Biomolecular Screening Branch.
Paules, Casey, and colleagues from EPA, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Center for Applied and Translational Science, which is also part of National Institutes of Health, presented ongoing cross-partner projects. These projects develop tests, address their limitations, manage the large chemical libraries that have been generated, and increase confidence in these new methods.
Hot topic session about PFAS
Sue Fenton, Ph.D., represented NTP research on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, during an SOT Hot Topic Session. She leads the NTP Reproductive Endocrinology Group.
PFAS are a large group of stain- and water-resistant compounds that are used in a wide array of consumer products and may be of concern. According to Fenton, NTP has tested more than 70 PFAS compounds for toxicity in multiple cell-based models, to help prioritize which compounds may need further study in cellular or animal models.
“We are trying to generate data on either emerging PFAS or critical compounds that need regulatory limits,” said Fenton.
Extramural staff discuss grantee research
NIEHS staff from the Division of Extramural Research and Training answered questions from potential grantees in the Research Funding Insights room throughout the conference. They also reviewed the results of NIEHS-funded work in numerous oral and poster presentations.
Danielle Carlin, Ph.D., from the Superfund Research Program, led a symposium titled “Atherosclerosis as a Model to Understand the Combined Effects of Environmental Chemical and Non-Chemical Stressors.” Carlin explained that atherosclerosis, which can contribute to heart attacks and stroke through hardened arteries, may be a prime example of a disease affected by both chemical factors, like air pollution, and nonchemical factors, like stress or poor nutrition.
The symposium was a preview of an upcoming meeting(https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/conference/nhlbi_niehs_2018/) at NIEHS that will be hosted jointly with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
(Virginia Guidry, Ph.D., is a technical writer and public information specialist in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison, and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.)