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NIH to Fund Development of New Stem Cell Cytotoxicity Assays

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health plans to fund scientists developing new assays that can screen for the effects of chemical toxins on stem cell differentiation.

Supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the funds will go toward developing medium- to high-throughput assays to evaluate the ability of chemical toxins to induce differentiation in pluripotent or induced pluripotent cells and the resulting cell populations. These assays will provide information on mechanisms of chemically induced bioactivity and help prioritize compounds for more extensive toxicological evaluation of chemicals.

Approaches can include assays to evaluate the ability of chemicals to affect cell differentiation; human or mouse cell line panels to incorporate genetic variation into toxicity screening; engineered stem cell lines to simulate common genetic variants in human disease, such as breast cancer and Parkinson's disease, that would predispose to increased toxic sensitivity; and high-content screening or omics-based assays.

To fund the development of the assays, NIEHS plans to commit $1 million in the fiscal year 2015 comprising three to four new Phase I grants, each with up to $225,000 in total costs for a duration of up to one year.

A primary focus of these programs is the use of in vitro methods and assays to screen thousands of chemicals for toxicity in order to identify mechanisms of compound-induced biological activity, characterize toxic pathways, facilitate cross-species extrapolation, and provide input to models for low-dose extrapolation.

Assays should be developed only from either mouse-induced pluripotent and embryonic stem cells or human-induced pluripotent and embryonic stem cell lines approved for NIH funding and should use toxicants or reference compounds that are appropriate to the endpoints and purposes of that assay. High priority should be given to compounds that are currently in the Tox21 10k library.

Applications will be accepted from Jan. 13, 2015 until Feb. 13, 2015.