30 October 2019

Dr. Gizelle Baker, PhD in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Director Global Scientific Engagement: Davide, what is toxicology?

Dr. Davide Sciuscio, PhD in Toxicology, Manager Pre-Clinical Toxicology Evaluation: Toxicology is quite a complex discipline. It’s a science that overlaps biology, medicine, pharmacology, chemistry and it’s the science that studies the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms, basically.

Gizelle: Is it different from systems toxicology?

Davide: Systems toxicology is an application of toxicology. Systems toxicology is the science that studies, that applies systems biology approaches to toxicology. To better understand what systems toxicology is, you need to understand what systems biology is.

Basically, living cells function through the interactions of different molecules. Systems biology studies these biological networks, and systems toxicology studies the perturbations in these biological networks following exposure to chemical substances.

Gizelle: That sounds really complex. Can you maybe give us an example in the real world of how you would apply systems toxicology?

Davide: One example of the use of systems toxicology is when we treat cells with a given chemical and we study the perturbation of the biological networks of the cells.

More simply, we study how the cells react to this chemical, what are the adaptive changes that they put in place in order to cope with the toxicity of a given chemical.

And for this we use systems toxicology. We measure the levels of certain proteins, the levels of certain lipids, the levels of certain RNAs (genetic material).

Gzielle: And what do you do with this data once you have it all?

Davide: The data is used to understand the molecular mechanism behind the toxicity of a given chemical. So basically, we can predict what happens in humans just studying some of these biological networks in a more simple way using isolated cells.


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