Testing the safety of chemicals – without animal testing
“We are developing a cheaper and better method of assessing neurotoxicity in humans, and we are helping to protect consumers from the harmful effects of chemicals", says David Pamies.
In our everyday lives, we are regularly exposed to chemicals in products such as pesticides, paints or cleaning agents. These substances can affect brain development in children, and experts suspect that the worldwide increase in neurological diseases may be linked to them.
The only way to ensure these chemicals are safe would be to fully test in advance. However, since such testing is very expensive and time-consuming, it is not routinely performed. Furthermore, it requires a lot of animal testing.
The research team led by David Pamies wants to develop a new test method that can be used to determine whether or not a substance affects brain development in humans. Specifically, they are looking at myelin, which forms a protective layer around the nerve cells. If the myelin layer is damaged, nerve signals can no longer be transmitted properly.
Pamies' research project is built on a three-dimensional brain model that the team has developed and that is based on human stem cells (BrainSpheres). If the project is successful, the method could become part of a battery of tests to measure the toxicity of chemicals. To ensure that the method is ultimately validated and accredited, the research team regularly engages in dialogue with the relevant EU authorities.
"Our aim in this project is to help reduce the use of animals”, says Pamies, summarising the project. “We are developing a cheaper and better method of assessing neurotoxicity in humans, and we are helping to protect consumers from the harmful effects of chemicals".
Next-generation human iPSC-derived 3D brain model to quantify chemical-induced effects on myelin