Society VP Dr. Smith Has Hand in Grant for Rapid Toxicity Testing

EPA STAR Funds Development of Rapid Toxicity Test
--Teratology Society Member, Mary Alice Smith is Co-PI--

Writer: Charlene Betourney RBC Marketing & Development Associate (

Determining which chemicals disrupt early fetal and infant brain development is a major concern in using chemicals and drugs.

To help change the paradigm of how these chemicals are tested—and how rapidly the EPA receives results—the agency tapped researchers in the University of Georgia Regenerative Bioscience Center. The university is one of three institutions sharing a $3 million grant from the EPA to more quickly determine the physiological effects of environmental chemicals on children and infants.

SmithTo address this problem Dr. Mary Alice Smith, developmental toxicologist and Teratology Society member, teamed with Dr. Steve Stice (, Director of the UGA Regenerative Bioscience Center, an expert in stem cell research. The UGA Regenerative Bioscience Center's $799,938 share of the grant will allow researchers to modernize the current testing process using work they pioneered using undifferentiated cells.

“Our team is developing a rapid in vitro method that can be completed in about a week’s time. This will allow testing of a large number of chemicals for developmental neurotoxicity while reducing the number of animals used in toxicity testing,” Smith said. Smith, a faculty member in Environmental Health Science in the College of Public Health and Co-PI on the grant, said the complementary backgrounds of the scientists in the Regenerative Bioscience Center brought together the various experience needed for such a complex project. "This is an opportunity to further foster interdisciplinary research that encompasses toxicology, neural development, stem cells and new imaging technology," Stice said.

With one in six children in the US diagnosed with a developmental or cognitive disorder, "it is more important than ever to understand the potential toxicity in the chemicals that we come in contact with every day," said Steven Stice (PI), a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Reproductive Physiology in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. 

This type of problem needs an interdisciplinary approach to follow neural stem cells from exposure, to metabolic changes, to physiological effects, to pathway disruption, and finally to a toxic endpoint and possible disease progression. 

"By better predicting whether chemicals have the potential to impact health and human development, these grants will not only advance the science necessary to improve chemical safety but protect the well-being and futures of children in this nation," said Lek Kadeli of the EPA's Office of Research and Development at a EPA Grants Kick-Off Meeting at the Society of Toxicology in Phoenix, AZ.

The funding for the Regenerative Bioscience Center's study is provided by the EPA under grant No. R835551 on "Human Neural Stem Cell Metabolomic, Cellular and Organ Level Adverse Outcome Pathway Relationships for Endocrine Active Compounds." Visit this link for more information on the grant.


For more information, please contact Dr. Mary Alice Smith at or Dr. Steven Stice at


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