UGA professor receives grant to develop in vitro reproductive toxicant test

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November 8, 2013

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has awarded a grant to the University of Georgia to develop a three-dimensional in vitro tissue model for identifying chemicals that pose reproductive health risks in the workplace.

Dr. Xiaozhong (John) Yu, assistant professor of environmental health science at the UGA College of Public Health, will lead the project which is part of a larger effort in the scientific community to develop efficient and reliable in vitro methods to evaluate chemical risks to humans without animal testing.

“There are a number of challenges to extrapolating animal studies to humans,” Dr. Yu said. “Currently, toxicological profiles of drugs or environmental chemicals rely on expensive, low-throughput in vivo studies in animals.There are thousands of chemicals in our environment and only a few of them could be tested in animals. ”

Dr. Yu and his team specialize in the development of "high-throughput assays” –rapid, automated experiments that can test hundreds or thousands of chemicals over a wide range of concentrations – to evaluate the adverse effects of chemical exposures on reproduction and development.

The two-year, $405,342 grant will support their work developing an in vitro "mini-testis" model from testicular cell lines that will mimic the dynamic in vivo process of sperm cell development.  The in vitro "mini-testis" can then be used to discriminate known developmental or reproductive toxicants by integrating genomics and metabolomics.

The story was published in the Nov 8. ASPPH Friday Newsletter.