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Computational Toxicology as Implemented by the U.S. EPA: Providing High Throughput Decision Support Tools for Screening and Assessing Chemical Exposure, Hazard and Risk
KAVLOCK, R. J. AND D. J. DIX. Computational Toxicology as Implemented by the U.S. EPA: Providing High Throughput Decision Support Tools for Screening and Assessing Chemical Exposure, Hazard and Risk. JOURNAL OF TOXICOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH - PART B: CRITICAL REVIEWS. Taylor & Francis, Inc., Philadelphia, PA, 1(2-4):197-217, (2010).
The Computational Toxicology Research Program has entered into its second-generation implementation plan, with a more comprehensive approach focused on supporting improvements to the management of chemical risk. The transformation of the conduct of toxicology will not be easy, as there remain a number of formidable barriers to overcome, such as (1) ability to broaden the physical-chemical properties of chemicals that can go into HTS, (2) incorporation of realistic metabolic capabilities into in vitro systems, (3) need to develop systems-biology-based approaches to integrate information over multiple levels of biological complexity, (4) need to extend the efforts beyond a primarily human-focused assessment effort, and (5) need to provide risk management options based on understanding of the environmental and human health consequences across the life cycle of a chemical.
Computational toxicology is the application of mathematical and computer models to help assess chemical hazards and risks to human health and the environment. Supported by advances in informatics, high-throughput screening (HTS) technologies, and systems biology, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA is developing robust and flexible computational tools that can be applied to the thousands of chemicals in commerce, and contaminant mixtures found in air, water, and hazardous-waste sites. The Office of Research and Development (ORD) Computational Toxicology Research Program (CTRP) is composed of three main elements. The largest component is the National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT), which was established in 2005 to coordinate research on chemical screening and prioritization, informatics, and systems modeling. The second element consists of related activities in the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL) and the National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL). The third and final component consists of academic centers working on various aspects of computational toxicology and funded by the U.S. EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program. Together these elements form the key components in the implementation of both the initial strategy, A Framework for a Computational Toxicology Research Program (U.S. EPA, 2003), and the newly released The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Strategic Plan for Evaluating the Toxicity of Chemicals (U.S. EPA, 2009a). Key intramural projects of the CTRP include digitizing legacy toxicity testing information toxicity reference database (ToxRefDB), predicting toxicity (ToxCast) and exposure (ExpoCast), and creating virtual liver (v-Liver) and virtual embryo (v-Embryo) systems models. U.S. EPA-funded STAR centers are also providing bioinformatics, computational toxicology data and models, and developmental toxicity data and models. The models and underlying data are being made publicly available through the Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource (ACToR), the Distributed Structure-Searchable Toxicity (DSSTox) Database Network, and other U.S. EPA websites. While initially focused on improving the hazard identification process, the CTRP is placing increasing emphasis on using high-throughput bioactivity profiling data in systems modeling to support quantitative risk assessments, and in developing complementary higher throughput exposure models. This integrated approach will enable analysis of life-stage susceptibility, and understanding of the exposures, pathways, and key events by which chemicals exert their toxicity in developing systems (e.g., endocrine-related pathways). The CTRP will be a critical component in next-generation risk assessments utilizing quantitative high-throughput data and providing a much higher capacity for assessing chemical toxicity than is currently available.