02 November 2018
AI could reduce pollutants in the oceans
New technology could be more effective at detecting whether pollutants will be harmful to aquatic life than testing directly on animals, suggest researchers at King’s.
New technology could be more effective at detecting whether pollutants will be harmful to aquatic life than testing directly on animals, suggest researchers at King’s in collaboration with teams at the Universities of Northumbria and Suffolk, the Francis Crick Institute and AstraZeneca.
The team suggest that software, which uses a series of algorithms to show how chemicals accumulate in fish and invertebrates, could predict the impact of pollutants on aquatic wildlife. They say that giving more people the skills needed to carry out this type of testing could benefit environmental testing across the board and reduce the need for testing directly on animals.
Pollution from contaminants are a huge concern across the globe, not only for the environment but also for public health. Governments are beginning to address this problem by only allowing chemicals to reach the market once they have been fully tested and the potential impact on living organisms in our waters has been assessed.
Dr Thomas Miller, from the research team at King’s said: ‘Until now, the only viable way to really understand the impact of chemicals in the aquatic environment was to study live animals. But we’ve shown that there are alternative ways to do this.’
‘As part of an ongoing collaboration between academic and industry bodies, we have shown that machine learning, or artificial intelligence, can be used to model and predict chemical and biological processes that occur when animals are exposed to certain chemicals.’
Following on from this, in an Environmental Science and Technology paper, the team have called for these methods to be applied much more widely in the field of environmental toxicology and are urging the international community to follow their lead. They say that there is a need for greater collaboration and more training for scientists in this field to learn these new skills and they call on governments and regulators to rise to the challenge and embrace machine learning.
Dr Stewart Owen from the pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, commented: “Machine learning is increasingly being used to innovate and solve complex problems across all industries, from financial services to healthcare. However, we need to accelerate our understanding and application of these tools to better understand and respond to the environmental challenges we face as a society. In doing so, we can begin to push the boundaries of science today, to support us in meeting the greatest challenges of tomorrow more effectively.”