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North Carolina Central Students Get Short Course on Toxicology Testing

By John Peterson
December 2009

The tour group enjoys the scenery at NIEHS. Shown, left to right, are John Peterson, NIEHS; Stephanie Farmer and Seema Chettri, NCCU; Debbie McCarley, NTP, NIEHS; Patience Hall, Samora Rugumamu, LaShaya Smith, Balagopal Nair and Antonio Baines, Ph.D., NCCU; William Stokes, D.V.M., NTP, NIEHS.
The tour group enjoys the scenery at NIEHS. Shown, left to right, are John Peterson, NIEHS; Stephanie Farmer and Seema Chettri, NCCU; Debbie McCarley, NTP, NIEHS; Patience Hall, Samora Rugumamu, LaShaya Smith, Balagopal Nair and Antonio Baines, Ph.D., NCCU; William Stokes, D.V.M., NTP, NIEHS. (Photo courtesy of William Stokes)

On November 19, a group of students from the Biology and Cancer Research Program at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) visited the NIEHS to attend a public meeting of the National Toxicology Program's (NTP) Board of Scientific Counselors Technical Reports Review Subcommittee. The visit - organized by William Stokes, D.V.M., director of the NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM)(http://iccvam.niehs.nih.gov/about/about_NICEATM.htm) and Special Assistant Debbie McCarley of NICEATM - allowed the group to get a first-hand look at the peer review of two widely-used chemicals.

Stokes invited NCCU Assistant Professor Antonio Baines, Ph.D., and eight graduate students in his toxicology course to attend the discussion of rodent bioassay studies conducted on ginseng and 1-bromopropane. The peer review is a critical step toward finalizing technical reports used by regulatory authorities worldwide for developing risk assessments and regulations for "safe" levels of chemicals in the environment.

Following the Board of Scientific Counselors meeting, Public Affairs Specialist John Peterson accompanied the students on a tour of two NIEHS laboratories. Kevin Gerrish, Ph.D., technical laboratory manager for the NIEHS Microarray Core, introduced the students to three commercially available microarray platforms that allow the investigators to explore the effects of environmental agents on gene expression and the regulatory mechanisms that influence gene expression. According to Gerrish, these platforms provide coverage for every model species used by NIEHS investigators in their research programs. "Research using microarrays generates vast quantities of data that require specialized software for higher-level analyses," said Gerrish.

The students were then escorted across the hall for an overview of the necropsy and histology laboratories. They examined whole-tissue samples taken from mouse heart, kidney, eyes, and brain, and viewed color diagrams that highlighted the sampling and trimming guidelines for tissue preparation. Biologist Natasha Clayton provided the students with a demonstration of sample preparation, processing and embedding, followed by a presentation of special staining techniques.

The visit concluded with lunch with NTP staff, including Raj Chhabra, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., and three NTP postdoctoral fellows. Baines indicated that the visit was highly informative and that he would like to continue to provide this educational opportunity to future NCCU graduate students.

(John Peterson is a public affairs specialist in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison and a contributor to the Environmental Factor.)



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