The Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences is participating in these research programs of the faculty of of Veterinary Medicine:
"Risk Assessment of Toxic and Immunomodulatory Agents" (RATIA)
The programme is designed to improve the scientific basis for assessment of risk to humans, animals and ecosystems from exposure to potentially harmful agents in the environment, in occupational settings, through vaccination, and through the food chain.
The programme Risk Assessment of Toxic and Immunomodulatory Agents (RATIA) aims at the development and further improvement of the scientific basis for assessment of risks (to human, animal and ecosystem health) of exposure to environmental agents.
- veterinary public health issues related to food safety, and allergies to domestic, laboratory and farm animals
- human and environmental health issues such as risks of exposure to biological, physical and chemical agents, and vaccines
- occupational health issues such as risks to health of workers in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and the animal feed industry, and veterinarians
- ecosystem health issues such as endocrine disruption effects of various contaminants on animal wildlife.
Because of the inter-faculty nature of the coordinating institute, the research program fit well in the Academic Biomedical Cluster (ABC) and research programs of the supporting faculties (Veterinary Medicine, Medicine, Science).
The RATIA programme has four research lines.
Exposure assessment & control
Any organism is exposed continuously to natural and anthropogenic agents, which threat its health and well-being. Projects within this line focus on the identification of physical and chemical factors in the environment, whether being occupational, domestic or in the biosphere. Exposure assessment will provide the information that is necessary to control or reduce the presence of these agents to protect human and environmental health. Mathematical models are being developed which describe the processes which underlie exposure and contamination. Such models fuel new sampling and analysis strategies, which are crucial to control and finally to manage the respective factor. Obviously, the development of these models depends initially on analytical data. In addition, these models need to be validated in order to be accepted by regulatory authorities and risk managers. In view of the topic of this research line - exposure assessment and control- it is obvious terms of development and design. Advanced, sophisticated and adequate-for-the-purpose analytical or diagnostic assays are essential tools. Another important research issue within this research line is the identification of emerging threats for humans, life stock and the environment.
Mechanism of action and dose-response assessment
This research line covers part of the risk assessment area in which the availability and the dose of toxic substances are studied in relation to their potential to induce adverse effects. Specific aims are to assess how the bioavailability and the distribution among environmental compartments of chemicals may relate to toxic hazard for the natural environment. The sorption to soil and sediments, tissue partition and internal dose are measured and modelled in order to understand the availability and kinetics of toxic substances within organisms and to predict toxic hazard. To predict the availability of external and internal exposure to toxic substances for the organism in vivo, novel in vitro methods, sampling techniques and models are developed. In parallel, toxic effects are studied to reveal the biological mechanisms of action of toxic substances (food-related products, health products, drugs and environmental contaminants) on the immune, the neural and the endocrine system. Receptor interactions and the consequences for cellular signalling and cellular communication are investigated to develop an understanding of cellular and molecular toxic, immunological and endocrine mechanisms.
Environment and host response modulation
This research line has its focus on immune modulation in relation to chronic immune - mediated diseases, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. Immunological mechanisms in relation to food and immune-modulating environmental agents are of interest, such as microbial components (including vaccines), probiotics, adjuvants, chemical compounds, drugs and aeroallergens such as house-dust mites and pollens. For this, intense and long-standing collaborations exist between human and animal oriented research groups in relation to (juvenile) rheumatoid arthritis and allergies. The fact that the research done in this research line has implications for both veterinary and human medicine gives the RATIA program a very good link to the biomedical research that is done at the Utrecht University Immuno-regulatory events associated with mucosal tolerance and immunological regulation through T cells are central themes in the projects of this research line. Food allergies and atopic dermatitis in cats and dogs, asthma in cats and colitis (inflammatory bowel disease) in dogs are the natural disease models that are being studied. Experimental models include, partly unique, models of allergic asthma, arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease in mice and rats. A unique aspect of this program is that animals are both target species and model systems for development of innovative interventions that can be use for the human situation.
Human population effect studies
This research line focuses on relations between exposure to biological and chemical agents and resulting health effects in human populations. Close collaboration exists with research groups within the medical faculty. Biological agents include bacterial toxins such as endotoxins and allergens. As far as knowledge reaches at this moment the risk of developing chronic diseases is modified by exposure to microbial agents and toxins. In view of the special position at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine specific emphasis is given to interrelationships between animals and humans and their resulting exposures. Animals can be seen as a reservoir of micro-organisms, which can result in human exposure to toxins and allergens in the domestic and occupational environment. This can result in a-specific inflammatory and specific allergic responses in humans. Exposure to infectious agents and the resulting infection and disease through the work environment or the food chain are not included in this research line, but are topics of interest in the Infection Biology programme (SIB) and a link of joint interest with the RATIA program.