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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid