News / Science & Technology

New Robot Can Test 10,000 Chemicals Weekly

This high-speed robotic tester is revolutionizing routine chemical toxicity studies by screening thousands of chemicals each week for potential human toxicity
This high-speed robotic tester is revolutionizing routine chemical toxicity studies by screening thousands of chemicals each week for potential human toxicity

Multimedia

Zulima Palacio

The U.S. government recently unveiled its newest tool for safeguarding public health - a robot capable of screening thousands of chemicals each week for potential human toxicity. The robot is not only speeding up critical laboratory analyses, but also eliminating the controversial use of animals in product safety testing.

The high-speed robotic tester is revolutionizing routine chemical toxicity studies. Robert Kavlock is the Director of the National Center for Computation and Toxicology at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - EPA.

“A single human may work on ten chemicals a year, or 20," said Kavlock. "We are doing 10,000 in a week.”

The robot was jointly purchased by five big federal agencies that are collaborating to improve chemical testing procedures, including the EPA and the National Institutes of Health's Chemical Genomics Center, where the robot is located.


The plan is to create a comprehensive data library of toxic and harmful chemicals - a library that doesn't exist today. The robot is now testing chemicals found in industrial and consumer products, food additives and drugs, for evidence they might lead to adverse health effects.

Besides its speed, the robot offers scientists other benefits: it works 24 hours a day without complaining or asking for holidays or vacations. And it eliminates the need for live animals in the testing process, working only with animal cells arranged on special plates:

“On that plate are 1536 wells and...each well has a drop or two of solution. And we put on each one of those cells a single chemical, so we have 1536 chemicals on a single plate,” said Kavlock.

Each plate has a bar code label containing information about the chemical samples in those wells. The robot gets software instructions about what kind of biological activities to look for in the samples, and it tests for them very quickly. Once it is done, it sends the results to the scientists and waits for new instructions. The scientists, meanwhile, will evaluate what the data means in terms of toxicity, and whether a chemical can cause birth defects, reproductive problems or cancer.  

“Industry will benefit because if we can develop a test that allows us to say whether a chemical is toxic or not toxic and we can do it for thousands of dollars and not millions of dollars, it becomes an economic benefit to industry to do it," said Kavlock. "It becomes a benefit to animal rights organizations concerned with how many animals we are using.”

Kavlock notes that there is no safety information on a lot of chemicals in use today. And about 1,500 new synthetic chemicals are introduced to the market every year in the United States. The new robot will give scientists a clearer picture of this torrent of chemical products, and help manufacturers and regulators separate the toxic stuff from the benign.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More