The importance of the in vitro genotoxicity evaluation of food components: The selenium

Vanessa Valdiglesias, Josefina Méndez, Eduardo Pásaro, Blanca Laffon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Genotoxicity assays are used to assess the genetic damage associated with the exposure to different substances. When humans are directly exposed to a potentially genotoxic substance, as with food, there is an imperative need to evaluate diverse types of DNA alterations in order to thoroughly determine the health hazard. This evaluation requires the use of a battery of in vivo and in vitro tests. In vivo studies are useful but are also very expensive, require a high number of animals and raise important ethical concern. Moreover their results cannot always be extrapolated to humans. In these cases the use of in vitro assays becomes relevant and necessary. Oligoelements present at low levels in food, as selenium, frequently give rise to difficulties for regulators and food businesses to evaluate the potential risk of genotoxicity. In this concern, the use of in vitro assays gains importance since it allows controlling the features of the exposure and employing human cell lines that can provide a more real view of its effects on human organism. Selenium is an essential human micronutrient that participates in important cell processes and exerts different effects on the organism according to its chemical form and concentration. In the last decades, many studies have been performed to characterize these effects. Their findings indicate that selenium is a key player in cellular metabolism, is an essential component of antioxidant enzymes, and has important roles in thyroid metabolism, human fertility, and many other vital functions. Nevertheless, data also show that an excess of selenium in the diet can be toxic and a deficiency can result in chronic, and sometimes fatal, failure. Because of that, though selenium is probably the most widely investigated of all the oligonutrients, it continues to be highly controversial and even health authorities have at times been confused. This chapter makes a review of the in vitro genotoxicity tests applied to evaluate the potential selenium-induced chromosomal alterations, mutagenicity, oxidative damage and influence on repair ability, among others, using different chemical forms and concentrations. Results from this kind of studies are expected to provide a suitable basis for the regulation of its use in nutrition and clinic.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNutrition and Diet Research: Appetite and Weight Loss
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages40
ISBN (Print)9781612091310
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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