26 Oct 2023

SETAC Latin America Hosted a Successful Meeting

Diana Miguez, LATU; Julie Brodeur, INTA-CONICET; Mariana Artal, Syngenta; and Fabi Lo Nostro, UBA & CONICET

Through the theme, “Cutting-Edge Knowledge and Technologies for Environmental Health Management and Research,” the 15th biennial meeting of SETAC Latin America was held from 17–20 September in the city of in Montevideo, Uruguay, at the Technological Laboratory of Uruguay (LATU).

The central theme reflects the region’s need to develop new technologies to approach the One Health concept. Thus, we prioritized communication for this meeting by making an extra effort to translate the four invited plenary speakers from Uruguay, Singapore, Chile and Germany into the three main languages spoken by the members of the SETAC Latin America community – Spanish, Portuguese and English.

Topics such as biodiversity, climate change, ecosystem services, cyanobacterial blooms, terrestrial, aquatic and air toxicants, metagenomics, environmental policy, risk management, endocrine disruptors, micro- and nanoplastics among others, results in a total of 27 conference sessions, more than 350 posters, and 10 Sunday training courses with the participation of 240 students. Also, 20 booths from local and international sponsors showed the latest advances in tools and knowledge bases.

A refined cocktail party and a typical Uruguayan dance performance welcomed participants during the opening ceremony. The relaxed setting helped attendees easily build new friendships, reunite with old ones and develop networks to transform ideas into actions towards sustainable development, encouraging regional synergy.

More than 680 participants from 22 countries and geographic regions attended the event, with 74 percent being graduate, Ph.D. or postdoctoral students. A student assembly, the SETAC Latin America general assembly and a debate were other activities during the days of the congress. Thanks to the mentors – Tamar Schlekat, Kelly Munkittrick, Gustavo Chiang, Ana Cione, Gastón Ituburu, Carla Kruk, Hyun min Hwang and Gisela Umbuzeiro – for exchanging ideas, experiences and lunch with our SETAC Latin America students.

We also appreciate the active support from 12 volunteers from across Latin America. Moreover, broad scholarships from the SETAC Argentina and Brazil chapters, and specific scholarships for Uruguayan students from IAI, UDELAR and UTEC, helped to support more than 30 students. And, through an arduous and competitive anonymous evaluation, we recognized the best platform and poster presentations of each day for a total of six awards. Winners received a special certification, an incredible local souvenir, and registration to the next SETAC Latin America meeting.

The keynote speakers’ excellent contributions reflected the SETAC Latin America commitment to the advancement of knowledge. The opening presentation was given by Santiago Mirazo, from Universidad de la República, Uruguay, and was about the “One Health Paradigm for Pandemic Preparedness in the Anthropocene Era.” The take-home message was that the study of human, animal and environmental health should be integrated. Mirazo posited that by addressing the root causes of the disease emergency and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, a more resilient and sustainable world can be built. Some of the factors contributing to the emergency include pathogen and host characteristics, climate change, ecosystem disruption, biodiversity changes, habitat degradation, but also mismanaged animal breeding. His critical analysis, with specific examples of One Health approach, revealed shared lessons learned and research gaps.

Prakash Hande, National University of Singapore, spoke on “Environmental Toxicogenomics: Approaches to Analyzing Biological Consequences of Environmental Toxicants.” Hande started by defining toxicogenomics as an integrated approach that combines toxicology, molecular biology and bioinformatics. This powerful tool allows us to study the genomic responses to environmental toxicants and their impacts on human health. Understanding DNA repair pathways and their role in modulating the effects of toxicants on mammalian cells has implications for risk estimation and identification of adverse outcome pathways. Gene and protein expression profiling allow us to identify potential biomarkers and affected signaling pathways, while high-throughput technologies are used to characterize gene and protein expression and spatial biology to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of action in response to toxicants and radiation.

Karla Pozo, San Sebastian University, Chile, presented her plenary on “Plastic Pollution, Chemicals and Their Impacts: From Macro to Microplastics.” Plastic pollution, chemical release from plastics, and their impacts on aquatic ecosystems, and human health, are pressing global concerns. To protect our environment and well-beingm it is crucial to understand and mitigate the effects of microplastics accumulation and chemical hazards, and to promote circular economy. Pozo clearly presented the magnitude and severity of the problem and took time to review modern measurement techniques.

Henner Hollert, Goethe University, Germany, examined the “Environmental Impacts of Chemicals – Beyond the Planetary Guardrails.” After this keynote talk, it became clear that there are alarming threats of chemical pollution to biodiversity. Hollert noted that to achieve predictive assessments and derive options for action, we need a comprehensive understanding of the interactions between the two. Therefore, he pointed out that some integrated actions are required, such as the establishment of a World Chemicals Council, which he proposed could assess and regulate the consequences of chemical pollution. He also introduced the RobustNature excellence initiative, which aims to investigate the impact of chemical pollution on biodiversity from an inter- and transdisciplinary perspective.

During the closing ceremony, the SETAC Latin America Board of Directors was excited to announce that Lima, Peru, was selected as the meeting venue for the SETAC Latin America 16th Biennial Meeting.

We hope it was an intellectually stimulating and enjoyable conference for everyone. The SETAC Latin America 2023 Board of Directors and the host team did everything possible to make this experience incomparable and enriching for the participants.

Thanks to all the participants, sponsors, SETAC staff, Latitud – LATU Foundation team for the support, and we hope to meet you in Lima, Peru, in 2025.

Author's contact: [email protected]

New Approach Methodologies Group Formed at SLA

Ana Cione, Syngenta

During the meeting, a group of SETAC Latin America members met to discuss an initiative around "Cutting-Edge Knowledge and Technologies for Environmental Health Management and Research" and of course the New Approaches Methods (NAM) were highlighted as a relevant subjects in Latin America. A training course and a session about NAMs was held during the meeting. The initiative was lead from Juan Pina (Albaugh, Argentina), Maria Laura Gutierrez (Conicet, Argentina) and Ana Cione (Syngenta CP, Brazil) and the participants of the SLA meeting were invited for a kick-off meeting of the initiative. The outcome was a success and the group’s objectives, actions and goals are being consolidated and activities may start in 2024. More info soon!

Author's contact: [email protected]