We need a better understanding of how toxins affect the body

toxin risks

Even in an era in which there is increased emphasis on living “green,” humans are constantly exposed to a wide range of toxins in everything from our air, food and water to the goods we buy.

And while we know the harmful effects of such substances as phthalates, VOCs, asbestos, lead and others, there are tens of thousands of toxins present in our environment for which that information is yet unknown.

“To date, we do not have a good understanding of how environmental chemicals might influence human tissues,” says William Murphy, the Harvey D. Spangler Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“There’s a big vacuum of information in this field about how chemicals in our environment affect human tissues, and we were motivated by the underserved need,” says Murphy. “The long-term goal is to replace animal models, and use human microscale tissues in a dish to recreate the complex physiology of human tissue.”

Researchers in the H-MAPs Center will focus on toxin screening in the liver, neural and vascular systems, as well as the role of chemicals in breast cancer. They will use a suite of innovative technologies to assemble and use these models in a fast-paced, automated fashion that meets real-world needs.