There is an increasing awareness of the potential risks from man-made chemicals to the environment and health. Regulations are coming into force that require rigorous testing of all chemicals above a certain level of usage. We will create a network of experts to provide research expertise and to apply selected state-of-the-art-assays in the field of environmental genotoxicity. Such assays are needed for basic research into genome damage and maintenance, for regulatory purposes (testing chemicals for possible health effects), for industry and for biomonitoring.
Various well-established genotoxicity testing assays are available; some have been approved under recommendations from the European Commission, the International Conference on Harmonisation (ICH – pharmaceutical industry) or OECD. No single test is sufficient, and all tests have significant limitations. The emphasis in EcoGenoTox will be on providing a battery of high throughput, sensitive, validated assays. Among them, the comet assay (single cell gel electrophoresis) is particularly versatile as a method for measuring different kinds of DNA damage as well as DNA repair.
The network, while based in Norway, will encompass scientists of international renown from institutions in Europe and beyond. Existing links with regulatory bodies and potential end-users will be consolidated. Full project meetings will be held at the beginning of the project to formulate network activities, and at the end to decide future plans. Video conferences will be arranged at regular intervals to discuss specific points, as well as meetings of partners whenever necessary.
The network will co-ordinate inter-laboratory validation trials of existing and modified assays, in close co-operation with regulatory organisations.