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Posted: August 24, 2009
University of Houston gets $3.2m for a Comp-Tox Developmental Toxicity Center
(Nanowerk News) EPA has awarded $3.2m to the University of Houston to develop a virtual developmental toxicity research center with Texas A&M and the University of Indiana. The Texas Indiana Virtual STAR (TIVS) Center will contribute to the evolution of more reliable chemical risk assessments by developing high throughput in vitro and in silico screening models of developmental toxicity. The models will use zebrafish and murine embryonic stem cells to analyze the effects of toxic chemicals on the developing embryo.
The primary aim of the three-year grant is to contribute to a more reliable chemical risk assessment that will generate clues as to how certain chemicals affect human health. This will provide researchers with a wealth of new information about what toxins may cause serious diseases. Zebrafish and murine embryonic stem cells will be exposed to a wide array of environmental pollutants to determine impacts such as damage to brain stem cells or neurons which may result in a greater risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases in adulthood, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, as well as detecting developmental effects like spina bifida, a common birth defect.
The researchers will also attempt to determine if there is a certain window of time when embryos are more susceptible to toxins during their development. The data produced in zebrafish and embryonic stem cells will be used to simulate certain developmental processes to create computer models for toxicity screening.
Jan-Ake Gustafsson, Director of the Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling (CNRCS) at UH from which this research has emanated, will direct the new TIVS center.