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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
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.
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.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid