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$5M funding for projects to analyze the impact of environmental contaminants on reproductive health


Montreal, QC – Two teams from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and McGill University have received significant support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) amounting to $5 million over five years.

The first team will focus on the effects of brominated flame retardants on reproductive health: animal, human, ethical, legal and social studies.

The team, led by Dr Cindy Goodyer, director of the Endocrine Research Laboratory at the RI-MUHC-Montreal Children’s Hospital, and Dr Barbara Hales, professor of pharmacology and therapeutics at McGill, with Dr Peter Chan, Dr Roman Jednak, Dr Bernard Robaire, and Dr Jacquetta Trasler from the RI-MUHC and McGill, received $2.5 million in CIHR funding.

The project involves a multidisciplinary team from five Canadian universities – McGill University, Université de Montréal, University of Toronto, York University, University of Western Ontario. They will study the impact of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) on reproductive health by investigating the mechanisms underlying effects on development and reproduction.

At present, more than 80% of human exposure to BFRs is due to contaminated dust in our immediate living spaces with the remainder coming from food. “Data suggest that the BFRs are impacting early stages of human development and that at least one outcome is abnormal male reproduction,” says Dr Goodyer, also an associate professor of pediatrics and experimental medicine at McGill. “We will investigate the impact of BFR exposure in animal models and on human reproduction, focusing on fertility and developmental abnormalities of reproductive systems. Another of our goals will be to explore the ethical, legal and social issues raised by these results,” she says. “This is a serious issue: not only is an individual’s health potentially at risk but also that of future generations.”

The other team will focus on the impact of exposure to phthalates, their metabolites and “green” plasticizers on male reproductive health.

The team, led by Dr Bernard Robaire, researcher in the human reproduction and development axis of the RI-MUHC, involving Dr Peter Chan, Dr Martine Culty, Dr Barbara Hales, Dr Makoto Nagano, and Dr Vassilios Papadopoulos from the RI-MUHC and McGill and Dr Viviane Yargeau, Dr David Cooper and Dr Milan Maric from McGill, and their collaborators from Dalhousie University, Université Laval, York University, and University of Western Ontario, has received $2.5 million. They will study the mechanisms underlying the male reproductive toxicity of phthalates, a family of compounds found in plastics.

“One of our goals is to elucidate the targets of phthalates and their metabolites in cells in the developing and adult testis,” says Dr Robaire, also a professor of pharmacology and therapeutics and obstetrics and gynecology at McGill. “We also need to determine – and this is a real issue for our future – the effects of possible replacement plasticizers on these targets. The challenge is to replace phthalates in plastics by ‘green’ plasticizers, which should not be toxic and, ideally, should be biodegradable to avoid any accumulation in the environment. More research is essential to understand the possible impact of these compounds on the endocrine system and, more specifically, how they may adversely affect male reproduction.”

“The two research teams will provide new insight into the reproductive health effects of these two important classes,” says Dr Michael Kramer, scientific director at CIHR. “The research will not only yield new knowledge, but also should have an important impact on future regulatory policy.”