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Development of Animal-Free Environmental Risk Assessment Technique
- Date : 23-03-21
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- Achievement of a new breakthrough in assessing toxicity of chemicals
- Development of a reliable in vitro cellular assessment tool for thyroid disruption evaluation
As chemicals are widely used in human activities, there is a growing need for fast, inexpensive, and reliable toxicity assessment tools which can minimize the risks to the environment and human health. However, the use of traditional animal testing methods for evaluating chemical toxicity is becoming increasingly restricted due to ethical concerns over animal welfare. This has led to a rise in interest for alternative approaches – such as in vitro models – which are able to effectively evaluate chemical toxicity without the need for animal testing. Such approaches offer significant advantages in terms of cost, time, and ethical considerations, and can also provide more reliable data for assessing the potential risks of chemical exposure to both humans and the environment.
The Korea Institute of Science and Technology Europe (KIST Europe) has announced a new breakthrough in the field of environmental risk assessment with the development of a reliable in vitro cellular assessment tool for thyroid disruption evaluation. Dr. Youngjun Kim's research team from the Environmental Safety Group at KIST Europe has developed a three-dimensional (3D) cell aggregate model that can effectively evaluate the toxic effects of chemicals on thyroid function. While two-dimensional (2D) in-vitro systems have conventionally been employed as screening tools, the 3D cell culture model is expected to provide a more reliable and efficient alternative.
Figure 1 Schematic of the method for formatting 3D cell model. Representative cytoskeletal structural images of monolayer and 3D-based culture models (F-actin, red; cell nucleus, blue).
The study was conducted using thyroid-friendly soft (TS) microspheres on thyroid cell aggregates to evaluate their potential as a reliable toxicity assessment tool. Dr. Kim's team at KIST Europe (First author: senior researcher Dr. Indong Jun) demonstrated that the TS-microsphere-integrated thyroid cell aggregates exhibit improved thyroid function. This breakthrough provides a promising alternative to conventional animal testing and is expected to have a significant impact on the development of advanced in vitro assessment tools based on human cells that can be applied at various points to the human thyroid system.
Dr. Jun was quoted as saying, "This is an exciting breakthrough in the field of toxicology. Our 3D cell culture model has the potential to revolutionize the way chemicals are tested for toxicity. We are excited to see how this model can be used in different industries to ensure the safety of the chemicals we use in our daily lives."
With thyroid hormone (TH) disorders and endocrine-related diseases being increasingly attributed to chemical exposure, this new 3D model is expected to have a significant impact on the field. This approach can be used to control cellular function in any direction desired, enabling a more thorough assessment of thyroid function. The proposed TS microsphere integrated cell aggregates are expected to provide fundamental new insights that will advance in vitro cell-based research.
In conclusion, this new breakthrough offers a promising solution to the challenges posed by conducting traditional animal testing to evaluate chemical toxicity. With the growing need for fast, inexpensive, and reliable toxicity assessment tools, this new tool for assessing thyroid disruption is expected to have a significant impact on the development of advanced in vitro assessment tools based on human cells that can be used at various stages of the thyroid system.
This research was conducted as part of KIST Europe’s major research program. The research results were published online in the latest issue of SMALL, a world-renowned journal in the field of materials science (IF: 15.153; top 7.101% in JCR field).