Rachel Shaffer is a research assistant. Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.
There has been a lot of buzz in recent years about the federal government’s new chemical testing initiatives, ToxCast and Tox21 (see, for example, these articles in Scientific American and the New York Times). These programs are developing high-throughput (HT) in-vitro testing to evaluate—and ultimately predict—the biological effects of chemicals. In contrast to the relatively slow pace of traditional animal testing, ToxCast and Tox21 use sophisticated robots to rapidly test thousands of chemicals at a time. As a result, they hold the potential to more efficiently fill enormous gaps in available health data, predict adverse effects, and shed light on exactly how chemicals interact and interfere with our biology. (For more on these potential benefits, see Section 5 of EDF’s Chemical Testing Primer).
Yet, among the key challenges that these new methods must address is one that traditional, animal-based methods have faced for decades: how can laboratory testing adequately account for the high degree of variability in the human population? The latest research suggests the exciting possibility that genetic diversity, at least, may be able to be incorporated into emerging HT in vitro approaches. Read More