DREAMing of smart crowds in toxicity testing

Recent research conducted by BRC Director Fred Wright and Ivan Rusyn of Texas A&M University (https://news.ncsu.edu/2015/05/wright-chem-sensitivity/) resulted in a treasure trove of data on variation of chemical sensitivities in human cell lines. In collaboration with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the researchers had studied over 1000 cell lines and exposure to 179 chemicals, with the goal of mapping genetic variation in toxicity response. Says Wright “the data are so rich that we really are just scratching the surface.” Expanding the collaboration to include Sage Bionetworks and a crowd-sourcing initiative known as Dream Challenges, the bioinformatics community was enlisted to further mine the data, providing prediction algorithms that can aid future researchers in predicting toxicity based on DNA profiles and chemical structures. An article describing the results of this crowdsourcing effort recently appeared in Nature Biotechnology (http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nbt.3299.html).

Image credit: Nature Biotechnology (2015) doi:10.1038/nbt.3299, under Creative Commons License

Link: http://www.ebi.ac.uk/about/news/press-releases/life-dream


EPA awards grant for multi-institution collaboration between the BRC and Texas A&M

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a $6 million grant to fund a multi-institutional collaboration between the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and the Bioinformatics Research Center at NCSU. investigating the effects of environmental toxicants on human health with a focus on the potential adverse effects on the heart. The investigators will study the effect of environmental chemicals on cultures of cells that have been coaxed into behaving like heart muscle, even to the point of beating with a regular rhythm. Dr. Fred Wright, the principal investigator for the NCSU site, says “the ability to systematically investigate cardiac toxicity in this manner opens up the study of inter-individual variability in toxicity testing, in a way that was not possible before.” Other investigators at NCSU include Associate Professor David Reif and Research Assistant Professor Yi-Hui Zhou.

Image credit: Cellular Dynamics

Link: http://today.tamu.edu/2015/06/29/epa-awards-texas-am-6-million-for-cardiac-health-related-study/