Team:UC Davis


Mammmalian Cell Based Biosensor For Physiological Effects of Toxins

An idealized finding from our project would be in the form:

“We have evidence to support the finding that (COC) is correlated with the expression of (reporter genes) coupled with promoters associated with physiological stress (e.g. oxidative) in mammalian cells.”

After visiting a Superfund site, it became clear that to have a real positive impact regarding their problems with pollution and health, it would be necessary to draw a clear narrative between sources of pollution, measurements of a specific toxin in the environment using a high quality field test, demonstration of an effect on human health at these concentrations, and a specific policy change.

Polluters –> Environment (Field Test) –> Human Disease –> Policy Change –| Polluters

For best outcomes, every link in this chain needs to be well documented and backed by substantial evidence/data. It needs to be clear which organizations are responsible for introducing which toxins into the environment, that they are present in meaningful concentrations in the environment, that these toxins have a known causal effect on human disease, and what set of policy changes can help improve public health.

This model suggests an obvious guiding narrative to a project, with a very strong human practices component involving “cultural competencies” working with, and respecting the views and opinions of an indigenous people, and designing policy change to improve public health.

After initially focusing on the possibility of developing a new field test to help detect COCs in the environment, upon further research, it was determined that the current state of the art field tests, ELISA immunoassays, are of high quality and effectiveness. In light of this finding, we determined that our efforts were best spent studying the effect of COCs, including chemicals which have not been previously studied in detail, on the physiological health of mammalian cells.

A limitation of our research is that we will not be able to show a definitive causal link between COCs and human disease, but it is our intention to find links between COCs and physiological stress in mammalian systems, with the hope that our findings may motivate and inform further studies to find out if there is a causal link between these COCs and human disease.

A possible extension of our research would be to determine the effect of multiple COCs on the physiological health of mammalian cells. This would be of value in assessing and creating sane standards for pollution, as organisms in the natural environment are exposed to a variety of COCs at once, which may not have been previously screened in conjunction with each other. A possible finding from this might be that COC “A,” at a concentration below what is currently considered to be harmful, in the presence of COC “B,” also at a concentration below what is currently considered to be harmful, interact together to trigger a response associated with stress in mammalian cells.