Predicting the transfer of contaminants in ruminants by models - potentials and challenges

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Fenja Klevenhusen
Karl-Heinz Südekum
Gerhard Breves
Franziska Kolrep
Manfred Kietzmann
Pietro Gerletti
Jorge Numata
Markus Spolders
Robert Pieper
Janine Kowalczyk


Undesirable substances in feed can transfer into foods of animal origin after ingestion by livestock animals. These contaminants in food may threaten consumer health. Commonly, feeding trials are conducted with animals to assess the transfer of undesirable substances into animal tissues or milk. Such feeding trials explore the effects of the various physiological systems (e.g., ruminant and non-ruminant gastro-intestinal tracts) as well as different livestock production intensities on transfer. Using alternative methods to mimic the complex physiological processes of several organs is highly challenging. This review proposes a potential cascade of in vitro and ex vivo models to investigate the transfer of contam­inants from feed into foods of animal origin. One distinct challenge regarding the models for ruminants is the simulation of the forestomach system, with the rumen as the anaerobic fermentation chamber and its epithelial surfaces for absorption. Therefore, emphasis is placed on in vitro systems simulating the rumen with its microbial ecosystem as well as on ex vivo systems to replicate epithelial absorption. Further, the transfer from blood into milk must be evaluated by employing a suitable model. Finally, in silico approaches are introduced that can fill knowledge gaps or substitute in vitro and ex vivo models. Physiologically-based toxicokinetics combines the information gained from all alternative methods to simulate the transfer of ingested undesirable substances into foods of animal origin.

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Klevenhusen, F., Südekum, K.-H. ., Breves, G. ., Kolrep, F. ., Kietzmann, M. ., Gerletti, P. ., Numata, J. ., Spolders, M. ., Pieper, R. . and Kowalczyk, J. . (2021) “Predicting the transfer of contaminants in ruminants by models - potentials and challenges”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 38(3), pp. 398-418. doi: 10.14573/altex.2007081.

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