SCAHT Newsletter 04/2015

Season's greetings

Dear colleagues and friends of the SCAHT,
The sixth year of our centre is almost complete. A year with many challenges and achievements including the first financial audit of the foundation accounts, a process audit by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation and, not least, the submission for our application for the next financing period to the Swiss Confederation. While these activities are necessary to demonstrate good governance of our centre and set us up for the future, it is our contribution to education, research and regulatory projects in toxicology and risk assessment which add value and support public health in Switzerland and abroad. This newsletter once again highlights some recent examples of our activities. 

We wish you and your family a wonderful festive season with time for tranquility and reflection and a very happy and healthy New Year 2016!
               Martin Wilks and the SCAHT team

SCAHT participation in award-winning 3R-research activities 

Andreas Natsch and his colleague Roger Emter, Givaudan, Switzerland, have been awarded the prestigious Lush Prize 2015 for the development of the ‘KeratinoSens’ non-animal skin sensitisation test method (further information). Markus Hofmann, FOPH and Lothar Aicher, SCAHT have supported the development of the corresponding OECD test guideline 442D: In Vitro Skin Sensitisation (ARE-Nrf2 Luciferase Test Method). The main Lush Prize went to the OECD’s Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP) programme, for its animal-free testing activities. Florianne Tschudi-Monnet and Rex FitzGerald of the SCAHT are actively contributing to the development of OECD AOPs.

Successful graduates of CAS programme in Regulatory Sciences

SCAHT has successfully staged Module 6, Modelling Approaches in Chemical Risk Assessment, of the Certificate in Advanced Studies (CAS) in Regulatory Sciences. The module was attended by participants from a range of industries from various parts of the world and from the Swiss authorities. SCAHT would like to congratulate all the participants who attended this module and in particular Yann Cullum, Urs Naef, Astrid Günther and Cecylia Faltis who successfully achieved sufficient credit points to be awarded the Certificate of Advanced Studies in Regulatory Sciences.

SCAHT presentation at the 8th ChloroNet symposium

Lothar Aicher of the SCAHT regulatory toxicology group gave a presentation on the risk assessment of vinyl chloride at the 8. ChloroNet symposium held in Solothurn on 26. November 2015. ChloroNet is a joint project of the FOEN (Federal Office for the Environment) and the WWEA ZH (Zürich cantonal office of Waste, Water, Energy and Air). It is targeted to experts from government, law enforcement, consulting, industry and academia, dealing with remediation and monitoring of sites contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons.

Development of neuroinflammation-neurodegeneration AOP

SCAHT researcher Florianne Tschudi-Monnet was invited by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) in Parma as a hearing expert for the development of two Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) (further information) on the involvement of pesticides (rotenone and paraquat) in the etiology of Parkinson’s disease. The aim was to define the role of neuroinflammation in the neurodegenerative process. The committee unanimously agreed on considering neuroinflammation as a key event, and not just as a modulator, in the neurodegenerative process. In addition, it was also recognized that neuroinflammation can be triggered in absence of cell death, and that it plays an early and active role in the neurodegenerative process.

Research in SCAHT: Brain doping among school students

In a study co-funded by the SCAHT, Prof. Matthias Liechti and Dr. Evangelia Liakoni collaborated with the Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction (PD Dr. Michael Schaub, Dr. Larissa Maier) to assess the use of prescription drugs and recreational substances for cognitive enhancement among Swiss school students in the Canton of Zurich (further information). 13.3% of the students reported the use of prescription drugs (9.2%) and/or recreational drugs including alcohol (6.2%) explicitly for cognitive enhancement at least once in their lives. The use of substances for cognitive enhancement (to stay awake or improve concentration) was more prevalent among students who reported higher levels of stress or performance pressure and students with psychiatric disorders. Importantly, prevalence rates were similar to those previously reported by Swiss university students, indicating that brain doping already occurs before starting third-level education.

SCAHT Newsletter 03/2015

SCAHT presented at the 15th Annual AgChem Forum in Barcelona

The 15th AgChem Forum conference 2015 which took place in Barcelona on 23 and 24 September 2015  is aimed at the agrichemical industry and regulators and was attended by 370 senior level attendees from 230+ companies, and 18 European Member State Authorities. Discussions focused on the development and implementation of new guidance documents and testing methods for both human and environmental safety. Lothar Aicher, member of the SCAHT regulatory toxicology group, was invited to give a presentation on the use of -omics technologies within the framework of regulatory human health risk assessment.

European 3R congress

EUSAAT, the European Society for Alternatives to Animal Testing, held its annual conference in Linz, 20 - 23 September 2015 (see congress website). Topics included new technologies and new approaches including AOP in areas such as cosmetic testing and nanosafety. Switzerland was well represented by industry, NGO and academic researchers (BASF Schweiz, Biognosys, CSEM, DSM, Epithelix, Givaudan, InSphero, Nestlé, Novartis, OncoTheis, Philip Morris; Animalfree Research, Bern; EAWAG, EMPA, ETH, and Universities of Fribourg, Bern, Geneva and Basel / SCAHT).

Profs. Alex Odermatt and Serge Nef nominated as experts for external review of OECD AOPs

The OECD internal working group on AOPs (EAGMST) has approved the release of 8 AOPs for external review. For each AOP an OECD expert group with scientific expertise in the hazard area covered by a given AOP was built. Two SCAHT researchers have been nominated as external experts. Prof. Alex Odermatt, University of Basel, is reviewing the AOP on androgen receptor agonism leading to reproductive dysfunction and Prof. Serge Nef, University of Geneva, is evaluating the AOP on PPARα activation leading to impaired male fertility upon utero exposure. Further information.

AOP contributions

The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is offering up to three cash awards (totaling €7,000) to new contributors who add to existing entries in the AOP Wiki using available data. Contributions added to the AOP Wiki between 15 September 2015 and 15 March 2016 will be judged by the OECD AOP work group (EAGMST). Further information.

Research in SCAHT: Prenatal exposure to DEHP affects spermatogenesis and sperm DNA methylation in a strain-dependent manner

In a study funded by the SCAHT and the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (BAG), Dr Ariane Giacobino and a team of researchers from Geneva University and University Hospital observed that prenatal exposure to di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) in two mouse strains significantly decreased spermatogenesis in one strain and not in the other. Treatment also strain-dependently affected genome wide sperm DNA methylation in promoters of large sets of genes putatively involved in both sperm chemotaxis and post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms. These results show that genetic background plays a role in the epigenetic changes linked to specific environmental exposures. Link to publication.

SCAHT Newsletter 02/2015

New SCAHT Research Coordinator

SCAHT welcomes Dr Jenny Sandström von Tobel who has started her position as SCAHT research coordinator on 1 August 2015, providing project management support to the research groups. Jenny's background is in molecular and cell biology and she has been working in the neurotoxicology research group of Dr Florianne Tschudi-Monnet in Lausanne as a postdoc since 2011. She has been an active participant in SCAHT research meetings and is therefore very familiar with the SCAHT network. This is a part-time appointment and Jenny will also continue to work in Florianne's group. 



OECD AOP update

OECD Paris hosted an AOP Training session on 16 June, and the AOP advisory group (EAGMST) meeting on 17 - 18 June 2015. Training covered creating an AOP in the AOP-Wiki, and weight of evidence/confidence analysis for key events and key event relationships. At the EAGMST meeting, 8 AOPs were approved for external review. Presentation topics included alignments with the OECD IATA program and the US EPA ToxCast and Endocrine Disruptor Screening Programs. Related video presentations can be found here.

Systems Toxicology 2016

Building on the highly successful 2013 conference in Ascona, the 2016 Systems Toxicology meeting, co-organised by SCAHT, will explore current and future applications in chemical risk evaluation. The three-day meeting will be held in the village and ski resort of Les Diablerets, Switzerland, from 27 - 29 January 2016. Further information.

CAS Module 6 "Modelling Approaches in Chemical Risk Assessment" - Registration now open

Registration for the next course of the CAS Regulatory Sciences program is now open. Module 6 "Modelling Approaches in Chemical Risk Assessment" will take place from 30 November to 4 December 2015 at the University of Basel. Further details on content and registration.

SCAHT goes to South America

Following the successful regulatory sciences course held in 2013, SCAHT was approached to organize a one-week course in regulatory toxicology adapted to the needs of Brazilian scientists concerned with the registration of agrochemicals. The course was held from 29 June - 3 July in Brasilia with 28 participants from the regulatory authority, the agrochemical industry, and Brazilian and Columbian universities. The faculty included Rex FitzGerald and Martin Wilks from SCAHT as well as Neil Byron (Exponent) and Elizabeth de Souza Nascimento (University of Sao Paulo). The course was well received by the participants, and the hope was expressed that similar courses could be conducted elsewhere in South America.

Research in SCAHT: Acute health problems due to recreational drug use

Dr. Liakoni and Prof. Liechti from the Division of Clinical Pharmacology at the University Hospital Basel investigated acute medical problems due to recreational substance use in patients presenting to the emergency department (ED). Among the 47.767 attendances at the ED during one year, 216 were directly related to acute toxicity of recreational drugs. The most common recreational drugs were cocaine and cannabis. During the study period only 2 cases were related to the use of novel psychoactive substances. The most commonly reported symptoms were tachycardia (31%), anxiety (27%), nausea or vomiting (23%), and agitation (22%). Additionally, there were two cases of myocardial infarction, 10 cases of seizures, and 10 cases of psychosis. Among all cases 40 (19%) presented with severe intoxication and there was one fatality. Emergency department presentations associated with novel psychoactive substances appear to be relatively rare. Further information.