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Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthCAAT

TestSmart DNT

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Meeting Report now available (via Environmental HealthPerspectives)

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What is DNT?

Developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) is a major issue in children's health worldwide. The developing human nervous system is susceptible to many toxicants, and chemical exposure during development may cause lasting neurological deficits. Such damage can range from subtle to severe, and it may impose substantial burdens on affected individuals, their families, and society.

Some of the most important environmental health issues over the past 25 years — lead and methyl mercury, for example — have involved developmental neurotoxicity. Testing compounds for developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) endpoints is an important societal and scientific goal.

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DNT Testing and the Role of Alternative Methods

Current methods for DNT testing are expensive in terms of scientific resources, time, and animal use. Given the increasing number of chemicals that need to be tested and the increasing amount of information needed about them, we must look for new approaches to meet the expressed demands for identifying developmental neurotoxic agents with speed, reliability, and respect for animal welfare.

The TestSmart Approach

In 1999, The Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) introduced its first TestSmart program aimed at providing a more humane and efficient approach to risk assessment of "high production volume" (HPV) chemicals. Following the TestSmart HPV workshop, the EPA announced it had decreased its estimates for animal use by 80%. Subsequent TestSmart programs have addressed pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors, and acute toxicity testing.

The goals of the TestSmart DNT program are to: (1) identify alternative DNT models based on evolutionarily conserved, mechanism-based endpoints of relevance to developmental neurotoxicity; (2) develop the process for validating candidate alternative methods both scientifically and in terms of regulatory applications; and (3) identify opportunities for reducing, refining, or replacing the use of animals in DNT.

To obtain the best science and integrate it into sound policy, TestSmart brings together diverse stakeholder groups from around the world, including research scientists, government scientists, regulators, policy analysts, industry representatives, academics, and public interest groups. TestSmart DNT's multi-year program will encourage stakeholders to work collaboratively so that, as the science is developed, its policy implications will be understood and, as policy needs are articulated, the science can respond.

For more information about CAAT's other TestSmart initiatives, please visit this page.

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The TestSmart Open Meeting

TestSmart programs generally feature one or more open registration meetings that serve as a clearinghouse for ideas and as a forum for sharing both science and policy concerns. The first TestSmart DNT open registration meeting is slated for March 13-15, 2006 in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area. The steering committee responsible for planning this meeting reflects both the diversity of stakeholders and the international scope of this important issue.