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The Virtual Embryo Project (v-Embryo™):

A computational framework for developmental toxicity

About 2-3 percent of newborns have a malformation and the frequency increases by one year of age. For most malformations, the cause of the condition is unknown. However, an increasing number of genetic and environmental factors have been implicated. Currently, little is known about the extent to which environmental influences contribute. EPA’s Virtual Embryo (v-Embryo™) research project is conducting studies to develop prediction techniques to improve our understanding of how environmental influences may impact unborn children.

  • The goal is for v-Embryo to be used to accurately predict the potential for environmental chemicals to affect the embryo.
  • A selection of every day chemicals with known health effects in animal tests will be used to determine if it is possible to use a virtual embryo model to predict the potential developmental toxicity of chemicals.
  • The research uses fast, automated chemical screening data from EPA's ToxCast™ tool, data from ACToR & Virtual Liver to create simulations examining how chemicals could cause developmental problems in the embryo.
  • v-Embryo™ initially focuses on early eye, vascular and limb developments and conducts experiments using stem cells and zebrafish to generate data.

Read more about the Virtual Embryo project in EPA's Science Matters Newsletter.

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