Ecotoxicological research at DIT
The term ecotoxicology, first defined by René Truhart in
1969, essentially describes the study of the harmful effects of
chemicals upon ecosystems and understanding the pathways by which
these deleterious effects are elicited (Walker
et al., 1996). Thousands of new chemicals are produced
each year requiring ecotoxicological evaluation, in addition to
existing chemicals for which limited or no ecotoxicity data exists.
Increased public concern regarding the impact of these anthropogenic
chemicals on the environment, prompted DIT to expand its research
portfolio to include the niche research area of aquatic ecotoxicology.
DIT’s Radiation Science Centre was officially renamed the
Radiation and Environmental Science Centre (RESC) in 2000 to reflect
the increasing incorporation of ecotoxicological research conducted
at the centre.
Research at the centre in the area of aquatic ecotoxicology was
originally initiated by the centre’s director Dr Carmel Mothersill.
Dr Mothersill has attracted substantial funding over the past ten
years, including EU Framework 4 and 5 projects, for research projects
in this area. The most recent funding has come from the Higher Education
Authority under the Program of Research in Third Level Institutions
(Cycle 2), for University College, Cork-led collaborative projects
(VITOX and BIOMASSTOX) between University College, Cork, Cork Institute
of Technology and the Dublin Institute of Technology. This funding
has enabled the current environmental group (postdoctoral researcher
Maria Davoren and two postgraduate researchers Sharon Ní
Shúilleabháin and Colm O’ Dowd) to build upon
and further exploit the assay systems and biomarkers previously
established at the centre.
Acute ecotoxicity data for aquatic pollutants is presently derived
from fish LC50 bioassays. The reduction or replacement
of live animals in the testing of potentially hazardous environmental
contaminants is, however, highly desirable for both ethical and
economical reasons. Therefore, an important focus of the environmental
group has been the development of novel in vitro cultures from fish
and invertebrates of ecological importance for employment in ecotoxicological
screening assays. The group has had considerable success in this
area of research, a fact highlighted by the publication of peer
reviewed papers (Mothersill
et al., 1995; Mulford
et al., 2001) and the contributions of several past
researchers from the environmental group to a highly regarded book
on aquatic invertebrate cell culture (Mothersill
and Austin, 2000).
In addition to the development of novel culture systems, subsequent
research focused on establishing the toxicity of chemicals of environmental
concern (e.g. cadmium, copper, nonoxynol, prochloraz, and 2,4-dichloroanaline)
employing established cell lines and cell culture systems developed
in the centre. A significant number of publications have also arisen
from this research which has been completed by former environmental
researchers at the centre (Lyons-Alcantara
et al., 1998; Dowling
and Mothersill, 1999, 2001;
Kilemade and Mothersill,
et al., 2002).