Developmental toxicology involves many different fields of science:

  • Developmental biology: understanding the basics of how an organism develops from a fertilized egg into a mature adult.
  • Toxicology: understanding how some chemicals are harmful to living things
  • Veterinary medicine: understanding animal biology
  • Human anatomy and physiology: understanding structures and processes of the body
  • Molecular and cellular biology: understanding processes at the cellular and sub-cellular level
  • Biochemistry: understanding how the chemicals and cellular components interact

Scientists can study the effects of developmental toxicants at many levels:

  • Molecular (chemical level)
  • Genetic
  • Cellular (within cells)
  • Intracellular (between cells)
  • Organ systems
  • Organisms

At Oregon State University, Dr. Robyn Tanguay and her team are working to discover how exposure to toxic chemicals affects the health of developing humans and other vertebrates. They believe that even short-term, temporary exposure to chemicals in the environment will have lasting negative effects of the development and function of the organism.

Graduate students and other researchers working for Dr. Tanguay are studying the negative effects that certain chemicals can have on zebrafish development. These include ethanol (found in all alcoholic beverages), nicotine (found in tobacco products), pesticides, and dioxins. They ask questions such as:

  • What effect do these chemicals have on zebrafish development? and 
  • What is happening at the molecular, genetic and cellular levels to cause these changes?


Meet Dr. Robyn Tanguay