SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a research grant of nearly $650,000 was awarded to the University of California, Davis to investigate the effect of environmental agents on thyroid hormones and modeling how the chemicals affect organism health.
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The grant was part of almost $11 million awarded to eight universities through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program. These grants will help the universities develop fast and effective methods to test chemicals’ toxicity to people and the environment. The 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.
“These projects highlight EPA’s commitment to protecting people’s health and the environment by developing innovative methods that are on the cutting edge of toxic chemical toxicity research,” said Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development.
The UC Davis study will focus on thryroid hormones (TH) that are critical regulators of vertebrate development and metabolism. The study will look at the exposure of environmental agents that affect TH synthesis, transport, metabolism, and/or receptor activity that may have profound consequences for organisms. The project will also study the development of sensitive and reliable screening methods for TH disrupting chemicals that should be an important component of a larger screening program for endocrine disruptors.
This research grant to UC Davis is for $649,345. In the grant proposal, the university indicated that “these studies have the excellent potential to discover new chemicals that warrant further testing for significance to human development and overall health, and effects on sensitive life cycle stages in wildlife.” The proposal also mentioned that these studies will lay the groundwork for future investigation into molecular mechanisms and the screening of complex chemical mixtures as thyroid disruptors.
The other grantees are:
• University of Texas at Austin – testing chemicals that impact fertility and embryonic development, and developing a model to classify chemicals according to the risks they pose
• North Carolina State University – developing innovative methods to understand how chemicals influence the regulation of development, reproduction, and metabolism
• University of Oregon – using zebrafish testing methods to determine if they have results similar to traditional toxicity tests and to determine if these methods could be used as alternatives for existing toxicity tests
• Battelle Memorial Institute, Pacific Northwest Division, state of Washington – working with assay systems of the rainbow trout pituitary, liver and ovary to screen for environmental toxins and measure reproductive endocrine functions impaired by these toxins
• University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – developing chemical effect testing for in vitro systems and computational toxicology solutions to measure risk in populations, and creating models based on the resulting data
• University of Michigan – improving upon an existing in vitro, neurochemical screening assay platform, and modeling adverse reproductive effects associated with toxic exposure in wildlife
• University of South Carolina – developing a targeted innovative animal imaging method to screen and identify chemicals that exhibit abnormal development in the cardiovascular and nervous systems that lead to indirect adverse effects on muscle development within zebrafish larvae
EPA’s STAR grant program supports human health, ecology, economics and engineering sciences through grants, centers and fellowships.
More information on the grant awards can be found at epa.gov/ncer/hi_thruput_assays.
More information on STAR grants can be found at epa.gov/ncer/.
More information on EPA’s chemical safety research can be found at epa.gov/research/chemicalscience/.