Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Facing the Challenge of Data Transfer from Animal Models to Humans: the Case of Persistent Organohalogens

Facing the Challenge of Data Transfer from Animal Models to Humans: the Case of Persistent Organohalogens

Alexander Suvorov email and Larissa Takser email

Département Obstétrique Gynécologie, Faculté de Médecine et des sciences de la santé, Université de Sherbrooke, 3001, 12 avenue Nord, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada, J1H 5N4

author email corresponding author email

Environmental Health 2008, 7:58doi:10.1186/1476-069X-7-58

Published: 13 November 2008


A well-documented fact for a group of persistent, bioaccumulating organohalogens contaminants, namely polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), is that appropriate regulation was delayed, on average, up to 50 years. Some of the delay may be attributed to the fact that the science of toxicology was in its infancy when PCBs were introduced in 1920's. Nevertheless, even following the development of modern toxicology this story repeats itself 45 years later with polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) another compound of concern for public health. The question is why? One possible explanation may be the low coherence between experimental studies of toxic effects in animal models and human studies. To explore this further, we reviewed a total of 807 PubMed abstracts and full texts reporting studies of toxic effects of PCB and PBDE in animal models. Our analysis documents that human epidemiological studies of PBDE stand to gain little from animal studies due to the following: 1) the significant delay between the commercialisation of a substance and studies with animal models; 2) experimental exposure levels in animals are several orders of magnitude higher than exposures in the general human population; 3) the limited set of evidence-based endocrine endpoints; 4) the traditional testing sequence (adult animals – neonates – foetuses) postpones investigation of the critical developmental stages; 5) limited number of animal species with human-like toxicokinetics, physiology of development and pregnancy; 6) lack of suitable experimental outcomes for the purpose of epidemiological studies. Our comparison of published PCB and PBDE studies underscore an important shortcoming: history has, unfortunately, repeated itself. Broadening the crosstalk between the various branches of toxicology should therefore accelerate accumulation of data to enable timely and appropriate regulatory action.

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