The new legislation of chemicals in Europe, REACH, will probable accelerate this development. One main idea is to use human cells for such testing, and a large challenge is then to define what adverse effect at the cellular level is. In this project we want to examine how chemicals may affect a cellular function called autophagy, responsible for degradation of damaged proteins, quality control of intracellular organelles and for elimination of microbial invaders. We know that autophagy can be stimulated by multiple forms of cellular stress. Then it has a protective role. Alteration in autophagy is associated with several common diseases and probably also affect aging.
We will examine if there is any relationship between chemical induced perturbation of this function in cultured cells and toxic effects observed in mice and humans. If such relationship is confirmed, this project may contribute to develop methods for screening of such chemicals present in the working environment, but also to focus on a new type of toxicity consisting of influencing or amplifying ongoing disease or aging processes. The primary objective of this project is thus to develop a method/strategy for testing toxicological properties of chemicals at the cellular level which may be usable for predicting toxicity in humans.