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University of California-Davis

Superfund Research Program

Immunoassays for Human and Environmental Monitoring

Project Leader: Shirley J. Gee
Co-Investigator: Candace Bever
Grant Number: P42ES004699
Funding Period: 1995-2023
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Project Summary (2010-2015)

To understand the effect of environmental exposures on people and the resulting potential health effects, rapid, accurate methods to measure exposures are needed. An immunoassay is a simple and sensitive measurement method that uses antibodies as detectors. Ms. Shirley Gee makes, improves and uses immunoassays for chemicals that have potential for widespread exposure and a potential impact on human health with the goal preventing or minimizing exposures. Using concepts pioneered in this group, mimics of the compound are chemically or biologically synthesized. The mimics are used to raise antibodies that are specific for the environmental compound. The mimics and antibodies are formatted into assays that are analytically well characterized. The assays are then applied to various studies of human or environmental exposure. The insecticides permethrin, fipronil and chlorantraniliprole are among the environmental contaminants being studied by Ms. Gee's research group. In addition to toxicity to non-target organisms such as fish and aquatic invertebrates, these insecticides are used in agricultural settings, at home, as well as by pest control operators. Exposure to the general population is likely. Assays are also being developed for the brominated flame retardants, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) and tetrabromobisphenol A and newly emerging environmental contaminants, the antimicrobial compounds triclosan and triclocarban. PBDEs appear in the environment through waste disposal of electronics and furniture while antimicrobial compounds are resistant to sewage treatment. To assess human exposure, assays to the human metabolites of these compounds are also being developed. Novel magnetic-luminescent labels for simultaneous measurement of multiple compounds are being developed to speed throughput. A technique called phage display is being used to make mimics of key assay reagents in order to make assays more selective.

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