HydroScreen, or how to identify the molecules responsible for toxicities
By correlating physico-chemical data with eco-toxicological data acquired from water samples, the HydroScreen project carried by Lodiag is a promising option for analyzing the risks associated with micropollutants.
By 2027, 100% of water bodies will have to be in good condition. This is the objective of the Water Framework Directive towards which all Member States, including France, must strive. The action of the water agencies is helping to achieve this objective, but many micropollutants (including emerging pollutants) are still found in water bodies at significant concentrations, leading to eco-toxicological risks such as endocrine disruption, genotoxicity, drug stress or even reprotoxicity.
Mainly based on physico-chemical analysis, current measures for the detection and evaluation of substances make it possible to identify the molecules or pesticides present in the water but do not determine the toxicity and potential cocktail effect of mixtures of these chemical substances.
By federating the HydroScreen programme, the company Lodiag, a spin-off of Profilomic SA, is proposing a radically new vision: analysing the samples for both physico-chemical parameters using non-targeted approaches and for their intrinsic toxicity in order to establish correlations that make it possible to quantify the toxicity of each pollutant.
To take up the challenge, the start-up LODIAG, which specializes in the development of artificial intelligence tools and database mining in the environmental field, has joined forces with Tame-Water’s biotechnological expertise. “The originality of our approach is to search for the molecules responsible for environmental degradation based on the toxicity observed in surface water. Current approaches are based on analyses based on a pre-established list of molecules whose toxicity threshold is often arbitrarily set at 0.1microg/L or evaluated experimentally using cumbersome and expensive approaches. Radically innovative, the idea of the HydroScreen program is to use the eco-toxicity measured on the samples to select without a priori the micropollutants that cause it. The objective is to predict the type(s) of toxicity(s) associated with a water sample solely on the basis of the spectral fingerprint, while taking into account the cocktail effect”, explains Maité Sarter, laboratory manager at Lodiag.
The idea is taking shape since the 3-year project was financed by ADEME via the Investment for the Future program and labeled by the Hydreos competitiveness cluster. The strategy consists in predicting, through an unsupervised artificial intelligence approach based on the analysis of 1000 surface water samples taken nationwide, the toxicity of the samples according to their spectral fingerprint. “By correlating the presence of chemical signatures in the samples with environmental effects, we will be able to model the toxic behaviour of substances and establish a predictive tool for the effects of micropollutants in water on living organisms by taking into account the spatial and temporal variability of emissions,” said David Halter, Scientific Director of Lodiag.
Today, the first step of the project is to set up a demonstration sampling programme with the Rhine Meuse Water Agency. “Within the framework of a technical partnership with the AERM, we are going to focus in particular on the samples collected from 60 sampling points in the surface waters of the Rhine-Meuse river basin, and demonstrate the logistical efficiency of the concept”.
This test campaign will then be generalised to other metropolitan river basins, which will feed the mathematical model aimed at predicting the effects of aquatic micropollutants on living organisms. See you by the end of 2022 to appreciate the first commercial applications based on this artificial intelligence tool!