Research

Overall goals

 

Our Unit aims at deciphering the fetal origin of some adult diseases and the environmental origin of disorders of development. Our approach is translational. The team focuses on the early effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals on brain control of energy balance and reproduction, cerebral cortex and hippocampus development as well as the interactions between mechanisms regulating those aspects.

More specifically, the group studies the effects of perinatal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals on the neuroendocrine control of reproduction. We have shown that early exposure to DDT or bisphenol A alters the hypothalamic control of puberty.

We have also reported alterations of neurogenesis, synaptogenesis and neuronal migration in the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus after a perinatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls, a class of endocrine dirupting chemicals known to disrupt thyroid function and impair learning and memory.

Finally, phenotypical consequences of EDCs are usually observed much later after exposure. Thus we aim at identifying early epigenetic markers of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in the placenta.

 

Research projects

 

1.  The early origin of disturbances of hypothalamic control of pubertal onset and estrus cyclicity after exposure to endocrine disrupters

 

   Epidemiological studies suggest that early exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals could disrupt puberty onset and ovulation later in life. We are studying the effects of a neonatal exposure to very low doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals on the hypothalamic control of puberty and ovulation.

 

2. Effects of perinatal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals on cerebral cortex and hippocampus development 

 

   Sex steroids and thyroid hormones play a key role in the development of the central nervous system. There is a rising concern about the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals on cognitive function in children. We hypothesized that EDC exposure early in life could have life-long consequences on brain function by altering the developmental connectivity of the brain. We are studying the effects of perinatal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals on neurogenesis, synaptogenesis and neuronal migration in the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus.

 

3. Identification of placental epigenetic markers of perinatal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals

 

   Fetal and neonatal life is a most vulnerable period for exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. However, human studies have failed to identify early biomarkers of exposure to EDCs. Our preliminary data indicate that the placenta provides an insight into the interactions between the foetus and its environment. We are studying epigenetic changes in the placenta following prenatal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals.