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New technique could reduce number of animals needed to test chemical safety
Date:6/29/2012

A new way of testing the safety of natural and synthetic chemicals has been developed by scientists with funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Their research, published today in the journal Ecotoxicology, could reduce the number of fish needed to test the toxicity of a range of chemicals including pharmaceuticals and environmental pollutants.

The researchers, led by Professor Awadhesh Jha of Plymouth University, have managed to coax cells from the liver of a rainbow trout to form a ball-shaped structure called a spheroid in a petri dish. This ball of cells behaves much more like normal animal tissue than cells grown in traditional ways in the lab and so can give researchers a more accurate picture of how an animal's body would respond to a chemical in the environment.

Fish are used to test whether both new and existing chemicals like pharmaceuticals can damage wildlife or the environment. Because a large number of spheroids can be produced from a single fish the use of this technique could mean less fish are needed to do these tests.

Professor Jha explains "This is a real breakthrough in our efforts to reduce the numbers of fish needed for toxicology testing. It is very important for the health of people, wildlife and whole ecosystems that we understand the effect of chemicals, both natural and manmade, in the environment, but we must strive to avoid the use of animals wherever possible."

One of the most impressive aspects of the fish spheroids is that they can be maintained in the lab for over a month. Many environmental pollutants cause health problems because they accumulate over time and become more concentrated further up the food chain. Because the fish spheroids can be maintained for longer time periods than normal cell cultures scientists can test the effect of long-term exposure to a potential toxin.

The fish spheroids were produced by a BBSRC-funded CASE st
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Contact: Mike Davies
mike.davies@bbsrc.ac.uk
44-179-341-4694
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Source:Eurekalert

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