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Developing mechanism-based bioassays for predicting toxicity of environmental contaminants


Improving mechanism-based bioassays for predicting toxicity of environmental contaminants


Traditional toxicology study involves a large number of laboratory animals. It was estimated that by the mid-1980s, 17 to 22 million vertebrates were used annually for all research purposes. As more chemicals are being introduced into the environment through intensive chemical use in agriculture, growing mining activities, urban sprawl, and industrial waste and spills, constant monitoring and risk assessment of the environment is critical in ensuring public health safety. Accordingly, the recent EU chemical legislation, REACH, provides for a tiered approach that uses in vitro test methods in human health risk assessment of environmental chemicals. Since its implementation the global market for in vitro toxicity testing is picking up momentum and many cell-based bioassays have been developed in recent years. However, these bioassays may generate misleading data because of limited understanding on gene regulation mechanisms in eukaryotic cells at the time of their development. Using advanced knowledge in mechanistic toxicology, Hao will develop a battery of more sensitive bioassays tailored for analysing and assessing prioritised environmental contaminants to overcome the shortcomings of existing bioassays. The achievements of the project will have a significant benefit not only for researchers and regulators in the field of environmental contamination but also for the mining and remediation industries.


Hao obtained a Bachelor of Science from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in 2009. During his bachelor’s degree study, Hao developed a method for extracting active ingredients of Camellia assamica var kucha, an endemic tea that grows in highlands southwest China. Subsequently, Hao enrolled in the University of Queensland Advanced Master Program in the field of biotechnology and was awarded the degree in 2012. His research was mainly focused on the production of baculorvirus bio-pesticides and animal vaccines by a system biology approach. He completed a comparative study of baculovirues kinetics in infected insect cells at different media conditions.