The test methods that currently exist for the identification of thyroid hormone system-disrupting chemicals are woefully inadequate. There are currently no internationally validated in vitro assays, and test methods that can capture the consequences of diminished or enhanced thyroid hormone action on the developing brain are missing entirely. These gaps put the public at risk and risk assessors in a difficult position. Decisions about the status of chemicals as thyroid hormone system disruptors currently are based on inadequate toxicity data. The ATHENA project (Assays for the identification of Thyroid Hormone axis-disrupting chemicals: Elaborating Novel Assessment strategies) has been conceived to address these gaps. The project will develop new test methods for the disruption of thyroid hormone transport across biological barriers such as the blood-brain and blood-placenta barriers. It will also devise methods for the disruption of the downstream effects on the brain. ATHENA will deliver a testing strategy based on those elements of the thyroid hormone system that, when disrupted, could have the greatest impact on diminished or enhanced thyroid hormone action and therefore should be targeted through effective testing. To further enhance the impact of the ATHENA test method developments, the project will develop concepts for better international collaboration and development in the area of thyroid hormone system disruptor identification and regulation.
Keywords: brain development; endocrine disruptors; risk assessment; test method development; test method validation; thyroid hormone system.