One of the major challenges in our modern day society lies in dealing with the high number of chemicals that enter the environment due to human activities. Some of these chemicals can adversely affect health. The research discipline, toxicology, aims to detect harmful substances and map potential adverse health effects.
This course introduces the basic principles of toxicology, including the processes determining uptake and distribution of chemicals in the body, the use of benchmark values, and biomarkers for exposure and effect. The importance of biotransformation of chemicals in the origin of toxicity is discussed.
An overview of important classes of environmental contaminants is given, based on chemical structure and properties. For each class toxicological propertes are discussed, including exposure routes for humans and animals, toxicity en general concepts of analytical methods to detect and identify these compounds in biological samples.
For some important toxicological mechanisms the molecular and cellular processes following the interaction of the chemical with the molecular target are discussed. Examples of toxicological processes that are important in current environmental issues and that could be discussed in this context include genotoxicity, effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in objects such as baby bottles, metal toxicity including nanoparticles and plastics in the environment.
This course also offers insights into toxicity studies and discusses various strategies that are used in environmental and human toxicological research to detect harmful substances and investigate toxicological mechanisms. The following subjects may be included:
- The contribution of molecular research techniques at the level of the transcriptome, proteome and metabolome to increase understanding of toxicological mechanisms. Examples may illustrate how data from different levels of biological organisation can be integrated in a systems biology approach.
- The importance of alternative test methods such as molecular screening methods or cell-based test strategies to reduce the use of laboratory animals.
- Innovative test strategies and concepts in the 21st century vision on toxicology, including the use of adverse outcome pathways as a conceptual framework to describe toxicological mechanisms and develop applications for chemical screening.
The course also includes a visit to the laboratory of Sciensano and a practical on 'Genotox in practice'