Chemistry Scholar Producing Toxicity Database for Researchers

CAMDEN — A Rutgers–Camden professor is developing a comprehensive data system that can be used as a valuable computational tool for researchers by providing them with access to chemical toxicity information.

Hao Zhu, an assistant professor of chemistry, is building the “automated profiling system” from existing bioassay data from public resources.  The new chemical toxicity profiles can help scientists who are seeking information on chemicals of specific environmental or pharmaceutical interest.

“There exists a very complicated, large-scale database of information and my research is to create an organized profile of chemical compounds that brings data together from the two methods used for predictive toxicity: in vitro methodology and computational methodology,” Zhu says.

Zhu’s work is being funded by a three-year, $464,983 grant from the National Institutes of Health.  The online database will be housed on a Rutgers–Camden server.

An in-vitro method for testing chemical toxicity is used by scientists to observe how toxic chemical compounds induce changes in a cell.  Another method utilizes computational models to predict toxicity directly from chemical structures.  Both methods are alternatives to traditional toxicity testing, which has become controversial because the method requires animal testing.

Zhu is taking existing in-vitro data and categorizing and prioritizing it for the new database.  

“The in-vitro assays have generated a lot of data,” Zhu says. “Knowing chemical toxicity is very important to drug development because we need to know the maximum dose that can be given to a patient so that it does not have harmful effects.”

Zhu says he believes that information gained from in-vitro testing and from computational model predictions does not paint a complete picture of chemical toxicity when taken separately, but when combined together, the data can create a better, more comprehensive idea of how animal bodies react with certain chemical compounds.

“Tens of thousands of compounds have been tested,” he says. “All compounds have varying degrees of toxicity.  I’m trying to extract the useful information from thousands of tests that have already been done.”

Zhu, a Cherry Hill resident, earned his bachelor’s degree from Jilin University in China, his master’s degree from Peking University in China, and his doctoral degree from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.  He is the author of various refereed papers and three book chapters, including his most recent chapter, “Computers Instead of Cells: Computational Modeling of Chemical Toxicity,” which appears in Reducing, Refining, and Replacing the Use of Animals in Toxicity Testing (Royal Society of Chemistry Press, 2013).

Ed Moorhouse
856-225-6759

 

Other News Stories

June 23, 2014

The New Jersey Council of Presidents has approved a bachelor of arts in health sciences degree program for the Rutgers University–Camden College of Arts and Sciences.

June 23, 2014
A Rutgers University–Camden nursing scholar has been recognized for a research study on maternal and infant health outcomes of minority women living in underserved urban communities.
June 19, 2014
Four Rutgers University–Camden student veterans have been named the inaugural recipients of the Jeremy Kane Scholarship: Carla Cooper, Mark Bodrog, Nam Dy, and Henderson Tyrrell. Each recipient has received an award in the amount of $750.
June 18, 2014
Prentiss Dantzler and Zach Wood, Ph.D. candidates in public affairs, and Jeanette Holdbrook, a graduate student in the master of public administration (MPA) program, are assisting an innovative partnership of seven Camden County towns focused on addressing vacant properties.
June 12, 2014
With roots dating back 30 years, the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated (NRCCFI) — the oldest organization of its kind in the United States — made a new home at Rutgers University–Camden in October. Now known as the NRCCFI at Rutgers–Camden, the center has ushered in a new era of collaborative research, resource dissemination, advocacy, training, and educational opportunities.

Pages