Effect-based Analysis

© Fraunhofer IME

Integrated environmental quality assessments using biomarkers

We conduct effect-directed analyses to study effects of environmental pollutants in water and soil. Adverse biological effects are identified using molecular und protein chemistry endpoints in cell and fish embryo based bioassays and subsequently assigned to the causative chemicals by conventional chemical analysis. Cell-based assays are limited and display only specific cellular reactions (e.g., receptor binding or DNA strand breaks) and thus, just a fraction (i.e. a puzzle piece) of the overall toxicity (the whole puzzle). We therefore combine cellular with whole-organism test methods, like the fish embryo test FET. Only the application of a concerted in-vitro / in-vivo testing concept considers all aspects of toxicity and allows a comprehensive and reliable assessment of pollutant effects, including bioavailability and metabolism.

To date, studies to investigate in-vivo effects relied on older developmental stages of fish or rodents, which are considered animal tests and thus, are ethically disputable and time and cost intensive. The FET instead is considered an animal-free in-vivo test with in-vitro properties. Moreover, applications of reporter gene expressing lines and the measurement of biomarkers even facilitate the evaluation of pollutant-specific effects with the FET. Using the FET and cell assays, environmental samples containing critical contaminants can be identified and the corresponding pollutants pinpointed as indicated by the effect. This allows for a far more efficient chemical analysis where only relevant samples will be measured, using methods tailored to the contaminants identified.

Selected publications

Sonnack, L., Kampe, S., Muth-Köhne, E., Erdinger, L., Henny, N., Hollert, H., Schäfers, C., Fenske, M.:
Effects of metal exposure on motor neuron development, neuromasts and the escape response of zebrafish embryos. Neurotoxicology and Teratology 50 (2015) 33-42 (DOI: 10.1016/j.ntt.2015.05.006)

Muth-Köhne, E., Wichmann, A., Delov, V., Fenske, M.:
The classification of motor neuron defects in the zebrafish embryo toxicity test (ZFET) as an animal alternative approach to assess developmental neurotoxicity. Neurotoxicology and Teratology 34 (2012) No. 4: 413 - 424 (DOI: 10.1016/j.ntt.2012.04.006)