Exposure to elevated levels of heavy metals such as copper (Cu2+) and cadmium (Cd2+) is toxic to humans and threatens wildlife. We can quantify adverse effects of chemical substances (e.g., environmental pollutants, drugs) on living organisms.
Our PrecisomeTM (precise-ome) in-vivo testing technology delivers multi-dimensional functional analysis and distinguishes subtle differences that can’t be seen with standard methods. With this technology, we can:
- Predict toxic effects in mammals by measuring chemical effects on C. elegans.
- Help reduce the use of mammals in toxicology testing.
- Provide insights into toxic effects on whole organisms and uncover gene/environment interactions.
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Measuring heavy metals, copper & cadmium
Exposure to elevated levels of (copper) Cu2+, e.g., from corroded plumbing systems, is toxic to humans. Copper pollution also threatens aquatic wildlife such as salmon.
Routes of human exposure to cadmium (Cd2+) include fossil fuel combustion, municipal waste incineration, fertilizers, tobacco smoking, contaminated food, and industrial soil and water pollution. Cd2+ contributes to cardiovascular and kidney disease and threatens wildlife.
Fig. 1: Copper toxicity. (A): Dose-dependent inhibition of pharyngeal pumping after 60 min exposure. (B): Same, after 30 min exposure (*, P < 10-5; 2-tailed Mann-Whitney Wilcoxon Test).
Fig. 2: Cadmium toxicity. Same methods as in Fig. 1 (*, P =0.002; 2-tailed Mann-Whitney Wilcoxon Test).
Measuring the organophosphate insecticide, dichlorvos
Like other organophosphates, dichlorvos is a neurotoxin that inhibits acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme involved in synaptic transmission. Environmental contamination results primarily from agricultural uses and aerial spraying; the chemical is banned in Europe.
Health risks from chronic exposure include neurological and cognitive dysfunction, including increased risk for ADHD in children. Dichlorvos is also toxic to honeybees, fish, birds and other wildlife.
Fig. 3. Dichlorvos toxicity. Same methods as Figs. 1 and 2 except worms were cultured for 24 h before recordings (*, P < 10-12; 2-tailed Mann-Whitney Wilcoxon Test).
- Caenorhabditis elegans as a model in developmental toxicology. Boyd WA, Smith MV, Freedman JH. Methods Mol Biol. 2012;889:15-24. doi: 10.1007/978-1-61779-867-2_3.
- Caenorhabditis elegans as a powerful alternative model organism to promote research in genetic toxicology and biomedicine. Honnen S (2017). Arch Toxicol. May;91(5):2029-2044. doi: 10.1007/s00204-017-1944-7.
- C. elegans: a medium-throughput screening tool for toxicology (2006).
- Sublethal toxicity endpoints of heavy metals to the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Jiang Y et al. (2016). PLoS One, 11(1):e0148014.
- Evaluation of sublethal effects of dichlorvos upon Caenorhabditis elegans based on a set of end points of toxicity. Jadhav KB, PS Rajini (2009). J Biochem Molecular Toxicology 23(1): 9-17
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