State Key Discipline “Toxicology”

Last updated:2016-03-21 17:34:57

The state key discipline, “Toxicology,” was established in 1995 by the famous toxicologists Qiao Zhang and Jiongliang Zhou, based on the development of the  “Occupational Health and Occupational Disease” discipline founded in 1976. Masters and doctoral degree programs of toxicology were approved in 1995 and 1998, respectively. It was the first institute certificated to launch safety evaluations of new chemicals and pesticides by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture. Under the Guangdong Provincial “Scientific and Educational Development for Health Care Project,” the Key Laboratory of Toxicology was approved in 1996. Toxicology was evaluated as a Guangdong Provincial Key Discipline and State Key Discipline in 2007. Then, in 2014, the Guangzhou Municipal Key Laboratory of Environmental Pollution and Health Risk Assessment was approved.

The development of toxicology as a key discipline is dependent on the continuous endeavors made by a group of well-known professors, all with great academic attainments and excellent morals. Appointed as chairman of the Chinese Environmental Mutagen Society and first director of the Guangdong Environmental Mutagen Society, toxicologist Qiao Zhang was a chief editor of The Basis of Hygienic Toxicology and introduced the classic toxicological experiment “Ames test” into China. Professor Jiongliang Zhou was vice director of the Chinese Society of Toxicology, vice president of the Asian Society of Toxicology, and vice chairman of the Guangdong Preventive Medicine Association. He directed several key projects such as the “Seventh five-year national technological plan” and was chief editor of multiple treatises including Toxicology of Chemicals, Modern Occupational Health. Professor Zhixiong Zhuang was president of the Chinese Society of Toxicology, former director of the Shenzhen Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a member of State Academic Degrees Committee, and director of the Guangdong Society of Toxicology; he was also chief umpire of Essentials of Toxicology and chief editor of Target Organ Toxicology, Modern Toxicology. As an expert in environmental health and immunotoxicology, Professor Chengzhang Chen was appointed as executive director of the Chinese Society of Toxicology, vice chairman of the Specialized Committee of Immunotoxicology, and editorial board member of Environment and Health. Professor Shengzhang Dong was recognized for uncovering the toxicity of heavy metals, such as Cadmium and Plumbum, and their effects on the nervous and immune systems; she was also on the editorial boards of The Basis of Molecular Toxicology, Environmental Health and the Toxicology Dictionary. Professor Xingfen Yang is deputy director of the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, vice chairman of the Chinese Society of Toxicology, and a member of its Specialized Committee of Food Toxicology. Professor Lukang Zheng was a member of the Specialized Committee of Genetic Toxicology of the Chinese Society of Toxicology, an editorial board member of Environmental Health and Occupational Diseases (Fourth Edition), and he received several Guangdong Provincial Scientific and Technological Progress Awards. Professor Famao Xu was appointed as deputy dean of the School of Public Health and Party Secretary of the Zhangshan Medical School; he has made great contributions to the management and discipline development of the School of Public Health. These professors have made great advances related to the construction of the discipline and cultivation of talent; their spirits have influenced several generations.

At present, the discipline has six professors, five associate professors, and five lecturers. Within the past ten years, the discipline has brought in several new talents, including Professor Wen Chen, Yun He, and Professor Guanghui Dong. As academic leader, Professor Wen Chen has gained a Distinguished Young Scholar Award and two Key Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) Awards, and has been appointed as the Pearl River Scholar. She is associate editor of Essentials of Toxicology; editorial board member of Toxicology Research; deputy secretary general of the Chinese Society of Toxicology; and chairman of the Biochemistry and Molecular Professional Board. The discipline now contains a wealth of academic specialists with progressive ideas and professional expertise, forming an active academic team with high-quality and development potential. Since 1988, the discipline has cultivated 60 doctoral students and over 300 masters-level students, supporting the economic construction for the state and Guangdong province.

After years of development, the discipline has formed four research directions as follows:

1.   Genetic Toxicology
A human cell transformation model has been constructed and used in carcinogenicity detection of chemicals to uncover the detailed mechanisms involved in inducing cell transformation by chemical carcinogens. The discipline took the lead in carrying out research on the epigenetic regulation of toxic effect and carcinogenesis, putting forward the idea that chemical carcinogenesis is regulated together by genetic damages and epigenetic changes, which provided new insights into studying mechanisms of chemical carcinogenesis.

2.   Molecular Toxicology
The distribution of metabolic enzymes and DNA repair enzymes gene SNPs of environmental pollutants have been analyzed using local population resources. A research platform has been formed for analyzing environmental carcinogenesis related to gene promoter region SNPs and the corresponding haplotype function. The relationship between haplotype collection location and diseases has been studied by screening label SNPs, providing the theoretical basis for screening and prevention of tumors in high-risk populations.

3.   Biochemical Toxicology
The screening of biomarkers for pollutants exposure and toxic effect has been launched by combining low doses of excitatory effects induced by chemicals and applying the method of toxicological proteomics. At the same time, the response genes and their functions in low doses of excitatory effects of exogenous chemicals has been studied, from which selected effect targets have been verified in cells and animals, laying the basis for population epidemiology study.

4.   Environmental Toxicology
Taking low dose heavy metals and organic pollutants in the environment as representatives, the toxic effect mechanism in health damage caused by environmental pollutants has been researched. Much work has been carried out in the prevention of occupational exposures and lead poisoning among children. The application study of biomarkers in predicting health risks has been launched among the high-risk populations, laying the theoretical basis for safety evaluation of toxicity and health standards making.
In the recent five years, the discipline has made great progress. The discipline has hosted over 60 scientific research projects, including three projects of the “973 plan”; two projects of the “863 plan”; one project of the national 11th five-year plan of science and technology; one project of the national 10th five-year plan of science and technology; twenty projects granted by the National Natural Science Foundation of China; and ten projects awarded by the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province. Over 300 articles have been published, among which 150 papers have been included in the SCI.

The discipline is making continuing efforts in establishing a united, enterprising and creative team to push the discipline to a new level.