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SCAHT is also involved in other defined areas of research

The centre allocates a proportion of its research funding flexibly for short-term projects which represent a meaningful complement to its existing core research areas or support the scientific work in these areas.

For details about current projects see list and descriptions below.

Furthermore, SCAHT was coordinator of the EU-funded project HEROIC and participated as associated partner in the EU-project NanoReg2, receiving funding from the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI.

EU projects

NanoReg 2: Development and implementation of grouping and safe-by-design approaches within regulatory frameworks (completed 2019)

HEROIC: Health and environmental risks: organisation, integration and cross-fertilisation of scientific knowledge (completed 2014)

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Scaht Labor Basel113.jpg
AP1 - European Drug Emergency Network (Euro-DEN) collecting data on recreational drug use
Rationale for the project

Hospital data show that every year thousands of individuals experience drug-related toxicity and other harm resulting in emergency department visits. The European Drug Emergencies Network (Euro-DEN) was set up to monitor drug-related emergency presentations across Europe. Basel acts as a Swiss centre in the project, which now includes 29 centres in 21 European countries.

Objectives

The goal of the project is to improve knowledge on acute drug toxicity relating to established illicit drugs as well as new psychoactive substances. The participating centres systematically collect toxicity data in emergency room admissions to identify, monitor and respond to new recreational drug use and adverse outcome patterns. The Basel research group also studies the pharmacology and toxicology of novel psychoactive substances in vitro.

Partners: P. Dargan (King’s College London, UK), K. E. Hovda (Oslo University Hospital, N), European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Lisbon, P, B. Megarbane (Lariboisière Hospital, Paris, F)

Project lead

Prof Matthias Liechti
matthias.liechti@usb.ch

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Scaht Labor Basel054.jpg
AP2 - Exploring the impact of UV light on the oxidative capacity of airborne particles – a possible mechanism for the onset of metal fume fever?
Rationale for the project

Particulate matter (PM) exposure is a known risk factor for disease and death, but little is known about the specific components responsible for toxicity. Oxidative stress is a key mechanism through which pollution contributes to cell damage and inflammation. The capability of UV light to induce reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in airborne metal-containing PM will be investigated in this study through the specific example of ZnO particles. ZnO particles emitted from welding processes are associated with metal fume fever (MFF), a transient respiratory disease of unclear pathophysiology.

Objectives

The goal is to investigate whether aerosolized zinc oxide particles produce photo-induced ROS, if production is exacerbated by reactions with iron oxide, which is present in welding processes, and to determine biological effects (cytokine release in human cells). If established, these mechanisms would support the theory that ROS production contributes to the onset of MFF. Beyond the case study of zinc oxide, it would also be a first step to address the role of environmentally-induced toxicity of airborne particles.

Partners: Guillaume Suarez, Hélène Hirzel, Jacques Pralong (Unisanté)

Project lead

Prof David Vernez
david.vernez@unisante.ch

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Scaht Labor Basel045.jpg
AP3 - Quantitative evaluation of the Key Events Relationships (KERs) resulting in impairment of learning and memory abilities (OECD AOP13) to support regulatory decision-making
Rationale for the project

The human brain is a highly complex structure that cannot easily be studied in vivo and has proven difficult to model with cell cultures in vitro. Exposure to environmental chemicals such as lead or pesticides in early life are suspected to contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders in children. Chemicals such as lead have been shown to block the function of glutamate receptors, disturbing brain development and resulting in learning and memory impairment.

Objectives

The team aims to combine a novel human 3D brain model with computational exposure modelling for in vitro to in vivo extrapolation to study the toxic effects of glutamate receptor antagonists, lead and MK-801, and generate usable thresholds values for acceptable human exposure. The long-term goal is to confirm the sequence of key events and provide a quantitative understanding of key event relationships for an adverse outcome pathway to support risk assessmentfor decision makers.

Project lead

Dr Marie-Gabrielle Zurich
mzurich@unil.ch

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Scaht-B_all_100.jpg
AP4 - New exposure biomarkers for glycol ethers in humans
Rationale for the project

Millions of people are chronically exposed to glycol ethers through a wide range of household and professional products. Some glycol ethers are neurotoxic and reprotoxic leading to regulatory restrictions. The toxicity of ethylene glycol derivatives is mainly related to their metabolic transformation products, while metabolic transformation and toxicity of propylene glycol derivatives have not been extensively studied.

Objectives

There are three main objectives in the study: (1) Develop a chemical analytical method to analyse potential metabolites, (2) Determine hepatic metabolism and cytotoxicity in vitro, and (3) Quantify possible metabolites in urines from volunteers (n = 16) exposed to propylene glycol methyl ether (PGME, CAS no. 107-98-2) and the propylene glycol butyl ether (PGBE, CAS no 5131-66-8) under controlled conditions.

Partners: Myriam Borgatta (Unisanté), Stephan Krähenbühl (University Hospital Basel)

Project lead
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Scaht Labor Basel014.jpg
AP5 - In vitro testing of the potential of endocrine activity of printing inks
Rationale for the project

The yearly production and allocation of numerous synthetic chemicals such as dyes, food additives, body care products, as well as chemicals used for industrial production or agriculture is rising. The interference of dyeing agents with the human endocrine system may cause harmful effects by contributing to cardio-metabolic and immune-related diseases, cancer or developmental/reproductive disorders. In many cases the safety assessment is insufficient. 

Objectives

The goal of the project is to evaluate different dyeing agents and assess their ability to exert estrogenic, progestogenic, androgenic or glucocorticoid-like effects. Using an in silico approach as well as in vitro assays, the research group will characterise the hazards of selected substances and evaluate their potential to act as endocrine disrupting chemicals. The risk evaluation and hazard characterisation of these substances on human health and the environment are important for safety management strategies.

Partners: Martin Smiesko (University of Basel), Beat Brüschweiler (Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office)

Project lead

Prof Alex Odermatt
alex.odermatt@unibas.ch