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UCF Advance Understanding of Contaminant Toxicity Using Computer Based Apps

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A team of top researchers from Dowling College and the University of Central Florida has developed a computer-based application to advance our understanding of the toxicity of contaminants found in the environment.

This effort led to a scientific breakthrough that has the ability to revolutionize the way experimentation is conducted, and their work has implications that can be applied to diverse functions in emergency response situations. The results of the innovation have been published in the prestigious journal PLOS ONE.

The research program was led by Dr. Vishal Shah of Dowling College (Oakdale, NY) and Dr. Sudipta Seal of the University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL).

Supported by the efforts of both undergraduate and graduate students from both the institutions and undergraduate students from Southern University at New Orleans, the professors created a new computer application to improve lab procedures commonly employed when determining whether a newly developed chemical is toxic. The report explains how using simple experimental methodology, users can predict the toxicity of contaminants in field conditions and, calculate and quantify information in order to produce applicable data on biocompatibility.

“People have long known that the extent of environmental toxicity of contaminants is dependent on the properties of the environment. However, historically, it has been challenging to test the toxicity within a wide range of environmental conditions,” said Vishal Shah, Dowling Associate Professor and Chair of the college’s Department of Biology. “We see this approach of developing computer-based applications, based on mathematical models, as removing the uncertainty and making science more data-driven.”

The application is expected to help field personnel eliminate speculation and assumption when dealing with environmental accidents, along with aiding assessment of the environmental impacts of emerging contaminants.

In the study, scientists used cerium oxide nanoparticles and show that the particles could have beneficial properties under certain conditions. “Through our research, we are now better able to predict behavior within organic systems and as a result engineer and tailor versatile materials,” explained Dr. Sudipta Seal, University Distinguished Professor and Pegasus Professor of Material and Science Engineering at the University of Central Florida. “For example, we have identified a specific nanomaterial that contains key antioxidant properties which yield multiple beneficial effects and has the power to aid in medical treatments and prevention.”

Scientists are working to make this technology available to researchers in multiple areas of study and encourage them to utilize this computer application as a standard method of practice. The expansion of this application has the potential to positively affect a broad spectrum of studies by producing more effective and accurate results.

The study was funded by National Science Foundation research grants to Dowling College, UCF and Southern University at New Orleans. The inter-disciplinary research team also included Professors Fred Rispoli and Kevin McDonnell from Dowling College. The complete publication of “Antibacterial Activity of Polymer Coated Cerium Oxide Nanoparticles” is now available online at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0047827.

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