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This project will enlarge knowledge about the exposure of unborn children to endocrine disruptors (chemicals that interfere with endocrine (or hormone) systems). Selected compounds are analysed in placenta tissue by chromatography and mass spectrometry. These analytical techniques enable to separate and quantify the chemicals according to their structure and molecular mass. The placenta samples originate from an on-going birth cohort study in Belgium. A birth cohort study involves repeated surveys of a large number of individuals from birth and throughout their lives. Consequently, it will be possible to follow–up the development of the children and link possible health effects to exposure during early life.
The placenta is in contact with all nutritional, hormonal and other chemical stress factors throughout the pregnancy. Environmental and food contaminants are detrimental for fetal development and can be either directly toxic to the cells or via endocrine disruption properties and/or oxidative stress resulting in adverse cellular responses. It remains to be determined how these chemicals affect the molecular biology profiles in the placenta at various stages.
The objectives of this project are:
- To further develop techniques to measure EDC exposures in placental tissue
- To further explore the in utero and early life exposures to EDC and their effects on growth and early (neurological) development of young children
In an existing and ongoing birth cohort (ENVIRONAGE) mother-child pairs are recruited from Hospital East Limburg. Each mother-child pair provides maternal and umbilical cord blood as well as placental biopsies. Perinatal parameters such as neonates gender, birth date, birth weight and length, gestational age and Apgar score were also collected after birth. After delivery, the mother fills in a questionnaire and regularly during the follow-up (on annual basis). Neurological and behavioral assessment is carried out in the newborn a few days after birth (Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale NBAS) andcognitive performances are evaluated at the age of 4 years.
Until now, only some environmental compounds have been detected in placenta, meaning they may be transferred from the mother to the foetus/embryo. Prenatal exposure to some of the known endocrine disrupting chemicals has been linked to developmental effects later in life. Therefore it is important to study these effects in mother child cohorts.
Added value for public health
Enlarging the knowledge about the developmental effects of some chemicals will help to prioritize chemicals to which exposure should be limited. Knowledge about the presence of chemicals in placentas of Belgian mothers is currently not available.
Added value for science
An overview of the levels of selected chemicals in placentas of Belgian mothers may be compared with levels obtained in international studies.
Acquisition and exchange of up-to-date scientific knowledge in the areas of endocrine disruption and development of analytical methods to measure levels of EDC in placenta.