Toxichip aims to develop and promote alternative testing methods for the monitoring of toxic chemicals, thus alleviating the current demand for animal sacrifice .
The 3 year project sponsored by the European Commission, through the Sixth Framework, will focus on developing both a cell- line based biochip that will monitor the effect of toxic chemicals on cell lines and a bacterial cell – based biochip that will allow the detection of various toxic chemicals. Tissue culture of cell lines has the potential to replace animal testing, but for such an approach to be successful, new and sensitive methods to detect cellular activities are required. The cell- line based biochip developed will examine the various cellular responses that occur as a result of toxicity and therefore, will have beneficial implications in various applications such as neurology, cytotoxicity and pharmacology. For example, the biochip can be used to examine the overall toxic effect of not only individual chemicals but also combinations of these chemicals in areas such as environmental analysis of wastewater and in drug development.
The bacterial cell-based biochip developed will comprise of genetically engineered bacterial strains that sensitively report on the presence of toxic chemicals that normally affect human cells, thus eliminating the need to sacrifice animals for experimentation. The bacterial cells will be engineered so that they respond to various chemicals by emitting different colours. The cells will be placed on a biochip that will detect the different colours and so detect the toxic chemicals.
Both biochips will be inserted into a fluidic platform that will deliver the toxic chemicals and media to the different cells. The platform will also have additional features that will essentially allow optimisation of the cell environment. It will maintain the temperature at 37 degrees Celsius as well as allow the monitoring of pH.
Both biochips will be interfaced to a computer with specially developed software that will allow data collection and analysis and will also be user-friendly. Operation of and data interpretation from the system will be compatible with the non-specialist; a market among general laboratory analysts is easily envisaged. Therefore, the development of biochips and microfluidic platforms, which are characterised by low cost, high efficiency and simplicity of processing and construction, is a major objective of Toxichip.