Queen’s University Belfast has been awarded 6.1 million euros, in collaboration with 11 other global partner universities and institutions, to develop a test to identify harmful chemicals that affect female fertility.
The grant is part of a wider research project funded by the European research and innovation program Horizon 2020 to develop highly needed test methods to identify harmful chemicals, known as endocrine disruptors. The tests will be used to address a range of health issues affecting humans, animals, and the environment.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with hormones, and are found in everyday products such as plastics, air fresheners, and cosmetics. Without dedicated tests to assess endocrine disruptor properties, it is difficult to gauge the damage these chemicals can also have on anyone who interacts with them.
Better test methods will help all species. In humans, endocrine disruptors can affect fertility and brain development. Animals can be affected by endocrine disruptors in the environment. For example, male fish are increasingly carrying female eggs, a phenomenon caused by the release of endocrine disruptors released by wastewater treatment plants.
Dr. Lisa Connolly at Queen’s University Institute for Global Food Security, co-author of the study, explained: “There is surprisingly limited knowledge on this issue. We will investigate how exposure to endocrine disruptors during different hormone-sensitive phases in a woman’s life, such as the fetal, puberty, and adult stages can ultimately affect her fertility.”
Dr. Connolly added: “We are delighted to be part of this research project which brings together experts across a number of countries. It is only through developing a test to better understand how these chemicals affect fertility that we will then be in a position to offer solutions.” ♦