ALTERNATIVE project builds platform for detecting the cardiotoxicity of chemicals

Posted on: 28/01/2022

On the 1st of October, the three-year EU Horizon 2020 project ALTERNATIVE (environmentAL Toxicity chEmical mixtuRes through aN innovative platform based on aged cardiac tissue model; grant agreement 101037090) was initiated. The project is addressing the increasing health risks of pollutants in the environment.

People are continuously exposed to a huge amount and variety of potentially toxic chemicals present in the surrounding environment, such as pesticides or drug traces in water, soil, air and living organisms. The combined action of pollutants can increase the risk of toxic effects. At the same time, a growing occurrence of cardiovascular diseases has been observed. These diseases have been among the top-ranked causes of death in mature and aged populations for the last 30 years. Scientists think that this increase may be related to the environmental exposure to exogenous toxic chemicals.

ALTERNATIVE will produce an innovative in vitro platform able to evaluate the cardiotoxicity of single chemicals or a mixture of chemical components. The platform is based on a 3D model of bioengineered human functional cardiac tissue cultured in a bioreactor, together with an omics analysis system for understanding the response of the model to different substances. Artificial Intelligence algorithms will be implemented to estimate the risk. Additionally, the project will develop a model of aged cardiac tissue to evaluate the impact of toxic substances on particularly vulnerable parts of the population, like the elderly and people with chronic diseases. The model will be initially validated on existing toxicity data, and in the next step it will be used to make predictions on chemical and pharmaceutical substances.

The project also aims at creating impact on European regulation. The EU bodies responsible for regulating chemicals such as fertilizers or detergents, industrial chemicals or pharmaceutical products are seeking an exhaustive evaluation of the toxicity of single substances or mixtures. ALTERNATIVE will offer a new method for gaining the required information on cardiotoxicity, allowing to obtain more reliable results with a viable technology which will have a lower impact on the environment and minimize ethical concerns through the reduction of animal testing,

ALTERNATIVE combines multidisciplinary expertise in areas like in silico systems, machine-learning algorithms, toxicology, epidemiology, and regulatory affairs. The project is performed by an international consortium of 11 organisations with complementary capabilities.

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