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The Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health (BIRCH) is involved in the study of environmental exposure and child health, specialising in both in vitro and ex vivo placental barrier models to investigate the mechanisms of placental transfer and toxicity of chemicals to which the mother may be exposed during pregnancy.
A leafleat about BIRCH is available as well. (PDF, 3.8 Mb).
One project currently running within the group has generated a Nature Nanotechnology paper based on the initial findings that CoCr nanoparticles can cause DNA damage across the cellular barrier.
Another project within BIRCH is NanoTEST: a collaborative research project funded under the EU Seventh Framework Programme for Health. The project brings together a team of scientists throughout Europe to develop alternative testing strategies and high-throughput toxicity testing protocols for the risk assessment of nanoparticles used in medical diagnostics.
Whatever route of exposure, various organs, tissues and cells can be exposed to nanoparticles. Very little information exists concerning the potential of diffusion into organs and the short-term and the long-term effect of the uptake by cells. It is not known how long these particles are retained by tissues and cells, whether they will be dissolved, or the effect of a high local concentration of their components in cells and organelles.
In this project we focus on representative organs and defining representative cell lines. Organs are divided into 8 groups that will use different experimental approaches to investigate the general mechanisms of nanoparticle toxicity with specific focus on oxidative stress/inflammation, immunotoxicity and genotoxicity. Automated assays will also be developed to generate high quality data for input into modeling activities and for future robust testing applications.
The group in Bristol are working in conjunction with other European partners in Norway, Switzerland, France, Italy, Greece, Slovakia, Denmark and Spain.