Oregon State University researchers have discovered a new method for expediting the processes used to weigh cancer risks associated with some very common environmental pollutants.
The researchers found they were able to observe immediate genetic responses by monitoring the skin cells of mice which were exposed to the pollutants. The team applied a set of statistical approaches along with monitoring the mice skin cell responses and were able to determine whether or not the exposed cells would eventually turn cancerous.
In the past, studies of this nature would take around 25 weeks before researchers could adequately see conclusive responses in scientific tests of this nature. Now, with Oregon State University’s new fine-tuned and faster method, they were able to make a determination within 12 hours. Susan Tiliton an environmental toxicologist at OSU stated, “After only 12 hours, we could predict the ability of certain PAH mixtures to cause cancer, rather than waiting 25 weeks for tumors to develop.” This new method by the OSU team of researchers is not only faster, but it also produces better accuracy in determining the cancer-risk associated with pollutants.
The study specifically focused on a class of pollutant mixtures that occur in the environment called PAHs, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. A few examples of PAHs are diesel exhaust, cigarette smoke and the large class of pollutants that result from combustion of organic matter and fossil fuels. PAHs are known to be contaminants of air, water and soil with many of them being known carcinogens. However, there are hundreds of PAHs and many of them have not been test adequately to understand the full cancer-risk they possess.
By matching patterns of genetic changes and watching the mice cells response to exposure, the team watches for the tell-tale changes that occur when cancerous tumors begin to develop. In a powerful statement Susan Tiliton, lead researcher in the study, closed an interview about the new method with this: “We’re hoping to bring the methodology to the point where we no longer need to use tumors as our endpoint.”