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Area of Experimental Toxicology


Monica Vaccari


The Area of Experimental Toxicology focuses on the development and use of in vitro alternative methods for the identification and evaluation of the toxicological profile of environmental contaminants.
The assays based on the use of cell cultures represent the most noted alternative to the employment of animals, due to their good sensitivity, reproducibility, and to some extent, inexpensiveness.  
The exposure of cell cultures to chemicals or physical agents triggers a biological response, whose extent depends on the dose and duration of exposure and which can be detected only when these two parameters are above a certain threshold.
The experimental transformation models, which well resemble several steps of in vivo carcinogenesis processes, allow the evaluation of the carcinogenic potential of chemicals and physical agents, and can be regarded as a possible alternative to replace animal bioassays for the prediction of human cancer risk.
The BALB/c 3T3 cell transformation test, based on the use of murine fibroblasts, has been extensively used in the lab of the Area of Experimental Toxicology to screen genotoxic and non genotoxic carcinogens and to evaluate the transforming properties of natural products (algal biotoxins), chemicals (solvents, pesticides, therapeutics), complex mixtures (PCB, fuels and motor exhausts), contaminants in environmental media (soil, water, air), ionizing radiations, asbestos and asbestos substitute fibers.