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

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down up to three percent, while US market indexes were off around 2.5 percent in afternoon trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs