Humpback whale cell lines established and used to assess toxicity of a compound known to accumulate in this species

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Humpback whale cell lines established and used to assess toxicity of a compound known to accumulate in this species

As a follow-up to our update of the Ecotoxicity Regulatory Overview section last month, we decided to highlight the relevant, recent publication on the isolation and initial characterization of the first humpback whale fibroblast cell lines by Burkard, et al. (2015).

humpback whales swimmingCells were isolated from humpback whale skin samples obtained from healthy, free-swimming whales using ethics committee approved techniques. Two humpback whale cell lines (HuWa1 and HuWa2) were developed from different animals, were identified as fibroblast type cells, and grew in the laboratory using traditional cell culture methods, temperatures, and media. At the time of the report, the cell lines had been propagated 30 times (i.e., cells were grown to cover the cell culture plates and then divided into more plates, so that the numbers of cells were expanded).

HuWa1 cells were used to investigate potential toxic effects of para,para-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p’-DDE), a priority compound identified as accumulating in southern hemisphere humpback whales. The exposure of HuWa cells to p,p’-DDE “resulted in a concentration-dependent loss of cell viability.” The sensitivity of the HuWa cells to p,p’-DDE differed considerably from human fibroblasts, and to a natural persistent organic pollutants (POP) mixture.

picture of author on the research boatThe researchers, from Australia and Switzerland, conclude that 1) the difference in sensitivity of the whale and human fibroblasts to the same chemical emphasizes the importance of species-specific toxicity evaluation, and 2) the HuWa cell lines provide “a unique in vitro model for the study of the whales’ sensitivity and cellular response to chemicals and other environmental stressors.”

(Photos courtesy of Carolin Drieschner. Lead author Michael Burkard is shown at right, piloting the boat during a sampling session.)

Citation:
Burkard, M., Whitworth, D., Schirmer, K., & Bengtson-Nash, S. (2015). Establishment of the first humpback whale fibroblast cell lines and their application in chemical risk assessment. Aquat. Toxicol. 167, 240–247.

Posted: September 25, 2015

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