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Lab method could help detect pollutants’ effects on wildlife

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Contaminants in the environment can have a range of harmful impacts on threatened wildlife, but without extensive field work, it’s hard to gauge what those impacts are. A group of Australian biologists have validated a lab method to help evaluate how different toxins affect animals in the wild. Stephanie Chaousis, a Griffith University doctoral candidate leading the project, used cells cultured from green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) to spot multiple molecular signals called biomarkers, which point to alterations within their bodies following toxic exposure. Although her work focused on sea turtles, Chaousis said her technique could be used on other species to determine how they may be affected by pollutants. “All living organisms have cells, so in theory, we could apply it to all wildlife,” she said. Instead of collecting samples from animals in the wild to see how pollutants might be affecting them, Chaousis’ technique performs experiments in the lab using cultured cells and known environmental contaminants. Cells cultured from green sea turtle skin are viewed under a microscope. ©Steph Chaousis  “It’s challenging to go out in the field, collect blood samples nondestructively, analyze those for different molecular markers and then correlate these markers with the effects of contaminant [...]

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