Alexander Suvorov, assistant professor of environmental health sciences, is leading an international team in a yearlong project to increase Russia’s awareness of new toxicology testing techniques that eliminate the use of laboratory animals.
The work is funded by a $92,610 grant from the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program.
The project, “Shaping the Future of Chemical Safety Together,” is a partnership with the Center for Environment and Sustainable Development (ECO-Accord) in Moscow. ECO-Accord is a nonprofit, non-governmental group researching new solutions for issues related to sustainability and raising public awareness of these problems.
Suvorov and his colleagues’ goal is to build a network of toxicology experts in Russia who will work to integrate new practices for testing chemicals derived from the Toxicology Testing in the 21st Century (Tox21) program. Tox21 came about through a collaboration between the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.
Like many countries, Russia uses toxicology tests that rely on experiments using animals. Advances in biology and biotechnology are allowing scientists to eliminate the use of lab animals and study the effects of chemicals using cells, components of cells and portions of living tissue.
The Tox21 approach has a number of advantages: animal tests tend to use higher doses than would be expected in humans, studies using animals observe for clear signs of negative health impacts rather than examining biological changes leading to these impacts, the use of animals is costlier than Tox21 studies, and Tox21 studies are also more humane.
“Russia is the third largest chemical producer in the world,” says Suvorov. “A significant share of chemical compounds produced in Russia are also destined for the international market.”
The team plans to initiate interest in Tox21 through a series of seminars that aim to create a dialogue between Russian leaders in many sectors related to chemical safety and the toxicology experts Suvorov is teaming with from UMass Amherst.
The first seminar will take place at UMass Amherst in April. Another, larger, seminar will take place in Russia in September. There will be Webinars as well.
The project will also be translating key materials about Tox21 practices into Russian for the ECO-Accord website. An additional dialogue will take place through a new Russian-speaking group on LinkedIn that will be focused on Tox21 and include key participants invited by Suvorov and his colleagues.
For the project Suvorov, along with assistant professors Richard Pilsner and Laura Vandenberg from environmental health sciences, will team with colleagues Oleg Sergeyev, Olga Speranskaya and Oxana Tsitser of Eco-Accord in Moscow.