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RCEES launched the use of stem cell toxicology to study environmental pollutants’ effects on human health
Update time: 2015-06-03
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Dr. Francesco Faiola, a professor at RCEES of CAS, has combined environmental toxicology with stem cell biology and clearly defined and set forth, for the first time in the world, the concept of “Stem Cell Toxicology” to assess environmental pollutants’ hazardousness. This concept was described in a viewpoint article just published in Environ. Sci& Technol.:http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.5b01549 

The field of environmental toxicology has been challenged in the last few decades by the exponential discovery of novel persistent pollutants and the relative lack of knowledge of their potential effectson human health. At the same time, there has been increasing awareness of the urgency and necessity of innovative, validated, and comprehensive assays to collect toxicity data more relevant to humans. Since the onset of toxicology science, we have heavily relied on animal tests. Although these in vivo experiments have been refined in recent years, they are still expensive, labor intensive, time consuming, accompanied by ethical issues, and not always applicable to human health due to interspecies variations. However, new stem cell technologies for the in vitro analyses of pollutants’ potential hazardousness, allow scientists to move past these problems and take advantage of the following: 1)Stem cells have often been demonstrated to be more sensitive than somatic cellsin acute toxicity tests.2) The effects of a test material on fetal development can be assessed with stem cells by looking at any abnormal differentiation phenotype. 3)Stem cells can differentiated in particular types of terminally differentiated somatic cells.Subsequently, their cellular functions can be assessed upon treatment with a chemical.4) A growing concern about pollution is its relationship to human reproduction. With pluripotent stem cells, we are able to investigate in vitro the potential effects of pollutants on our ability to reproduce.  

In conclusion, stem cell toxicology allows for the concurrent assessment of many forms of toxicity including acute, embryonic, developmental, organ, reproductive, and functional. It also provides a unique and widely applicable system for studies that are directly relevant to human health without the use of animal models. 

State Key Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology 

June 3, 2015 

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