EPA Researchers Share Scientific Progress at Society of Toxicology 2021 Annual Meeting
Published March 9, 2021
Despite over a year of pandemic-induced disruptions across the scientific community and beyond, EPA researchers have continued to advance science in several areas of toxicology. Annually, EPA researchers participate in the Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting and will continue sharing EPA science in SOT’s 2021 virtual environment. This year, SOT will be held virtually from March 12-26 (you must be registered to attend SOT events). Here are some highlights of EPA research that will be presented during SOT workshops, symposium sessions, and continuing education courses.
Integrating New Approach Methods (NAMs) in Decision Making
EPA is prioritizing the development and use New Approach Methods (NAMs) to test chemicals for health effects. Using NAMs will help reduce the use of animals in chemical testing while ensuring protection of human health and the environment.
During this year’s SOT meeting, EPA researchers will present about several different NAMs. Dr. Stephanie Padilla will present on her work with zebrafish studies to test neurodevelopmental toxicity of chemicals, and Dr. Chad Deisenroth will present on novel in vitro assay technologies to test how chemicals effect the human thyroid system. Dr. Antony Williams will be discussing advancements in cheminformatics and how the CompTox Chemicals Dashboard can be used to access existing data and assist toxicology research.
Advancements in NAMs for high-throughput toxicology will be discussed in multiple SOT sessions. Dr. Brian Chorley will be chairing a workshop about NAMs in high-throughput transcriptomics (i.e. the study of whole RNA transcripts, which establish cell function) to help researchers measure gene expression at the single-cell level, reducing the background noise of normal RNA-sequencing techniques and provide a more accurate evaluation of biologic responses. Additionally, Dr. Caroline Ring will present on a high-throughput toxicokinetics (HTTk) model that has allowed researchers to make estimates about dose levels, or amounts of a chemical, that could cause adverse effects in humans. EPA’s HTTk tools are continually expanding to inform risk-based prioritization, especially for non-pharmaceutical chemicals like flame retardants and pesticides, which often do not have in vivo toxicokinetic data. Dr. Johanna Nyffeler, who won a Best Postdoctoral Publication Award from SOT this year, will be presenting on her high-throughput screening work using cell painting to observe changes in specific organelles.
Dr. Maureen Gwinn will be co-leading a workshop about international toxicity efforts and specifically discussing progress and barriers to adopting and integrating NAMs into regulatory decision making.
Leanr more about EPA’s use of NAMs.
Advancements in Exposure Research
New methods are being developed and used by EPA researchers to estimate the risk of exposure to thousands of chemicals. In recent years, new approaches and models have been developed by EPA researchers and partners to help predict exposure from a range of sources: chemicals in the home (e.g. flame retardants, plasticizers, fragrances), occupational settings (e.g. pesticides, solvents, cleaners), and the environment (e.g. persistent organic pollutants and “down the drain” pharmaceuticals and consumer product ingredients). EPA researcher Dr. John Wambaugh will be chairing a session about NAMs related to exposure research for the advancement of chemical risk assessments. Dr. Kristin Isaacs will be joining this session to discuss her work with machine learning methods called quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) that can help fill gaps in chemical exposure data. She will also present about research related to how indoor residential chemicals enter and move through systems and how they eventually affect the population as a whole. The data produced from new models and other novel research methods provide risk assessors with better information to regulate chemicals and protect human health.
Learn more about EPA’s exposure research.
PFAS in the Environment
Research into the effects of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) remains a priority for EPA. A majority of PFAS research has focused on human health effects, and there remains a need for novel ways to test how PFAS accumulate and travel through ecological systems. In a special SOT PFAS symposium session, Dr. Gary Ankley will be discussing solutions like developing models and cost-effective experimental methods to test PFAS compounds. There is a clear need for cross-disciplinary collaboration to fill the ecological data gap for PFAS, and EPA is helping to lead that effort. Those who are registered for SOT will have access to a number of PFAS related posters put together by EPA researchers will highlight environmental effects, human health effects, and the categorization of these chemicals.
Learn more about EPA’s PFAS research.
Here is a full list of EPA presentations and special sessions at SOT. Presentation abstracts are publicly available on SOT’s conference Online Planner.