WVU researcher studies inflammatory effects of toxic chemicals | WVU today
Jonathan Boyd, West Virginia University School of Medicine researcher, studies inflammatory responses produced by exposure to chemical agents
Many of us face occupational safety risks, but those who serve in the military or work in law enforcement and industry are at higher risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals. This risk is significant, because nearly 10% of occupational diseases or fatal accidents are due to exposure to chemicals.
Jonathan Boyd, a researcher at the University of West Virginia School of Medicine, studies the inflammatory responses produced by exposure to chemical agents. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency recently awarded him over $ 2 million for the project.
“I have worked for a long time on understanding inflammation in humans and animals,” said Boyd, a professor in the department of orthopedics. “We basically created an encyclopedia of inflammogens of different causes, not only what are the causes but also what the inflammation looks like from a biochemical point of view. I thought this would be a good time to compare different chemical exposures.
Inflammation is our body’s way of fighting things that can harm it. When our cells encounter inflammatory agents, such as toxins or injury, they release chemical signals that trigger an inflammatory response from the immune system.
Boyd and his team have already studied the response to several different types of inflammatory agents, including traumatic injuries, infections, and even social interactions. In this new study, the team explores the response to chemical exposures at the whole body and tissue level.
For the study, whole body imaging for toxicity will be developed to map where and when local inflammatory responses occur in various tissues from animal models. The team will then isolate these tissues and study their genes, proteins and metabolites to find out exactly what inflammatory markers the tissues produce.
Boyd seeks to compare and contrast the inflammatory responses to five different agents by determining which inflammatory markers the compounds share and which are unique. Understanding the markers produced for all exposures could lead to the development of a common treatment for chemical exposures. On the other hand, knowing which markers are distinct could help clinicians determine the chemical responsible for victims of toxic exposures.
“We are studying markers of inflammation, or biomarkers of inflammation, across different compounds,” Boyd said. “We are looking for both universal markers that we could use for the potential development of treatments and disparate biomarkers of inflammation that we can use for differential diagnosis. “
Besides this main objective, the project aims to compare how different tissues change shape, structure and function when chemical agents induce inflammation. This is a new field that Boyd is pioneering, the one he calls “Toximaging”.
“Toxicology imaging will allow us to non-invasively examine all types of exposures that can lead to toxicity,” he said. “This will allow us to diagnose both target organs and tissue response times as they occur.”
This project is a collaboration with the Medical Readiness Systems Biology branch of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the Chemical Biological Center of the US Army Combat Capability Development Command.
To make this collaboration possible, Boyd will travel to WRAIR and CCDC to teach researchers there how to perform the imaging and biochemical analysis that he and his team perform at WVU.
“We are transferring the knowledge that we have gained and the techniques that we have developed to these federal labs, which strengthens the reputation of the University and the State of West Virginia,” he said.
The imaging results will also be easily translatable, as some of the techniques the team will use in animal models may be approved for patients at the clinic.
“Absolutely, we want to translate this into humans,” Boyd said. “We want to go straight back to humans afterwards to understand localized inflammation and its impact on humans. “
cms / 08/18/21
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