(Less)PlasticBrain: Bio Replacing Plasticizers – Impact in the Human Brain Development


Project Summary

Plastic additives or plasticizers are ubiquitous in the environment and are known to be transferred to humans through the trophic chain, causing serious health problems as cancer, immune disorders, obesity, infertility, or cognitive impairments. Therefore, it is urgent to find innocuous alternatives to plasticizers. (Less)PlasticBrain aims to evaluate and compare the effects of plasticizers and bioproducts on human brain development. A multidisciplinary team composed by neuroscientists, ecologists, engineers, and bioinformatics will work together on the development of this proposal. MARE researchers are developing studies in marine birds fed with pellets containing known concentrations of plasticizers and estimating the levels reaching the brain. This will help to develop a mathematical model to predict concentrations at which human brains are exposed during development. CEMMPRE researchers recently described bio-based and biodegradable products which have similar properties to plasticizers. CNC researchers will evaluate and compare the effects of regular and bioplasticizers in human brain in vitro models. iPSC-derived neurons will be used as a preliminary model to evaluate survival and function of neurons and its impact on neuronal development will be determined in human brain organoids. With this valuable proposal we expect to demonstrate that bioproducts are innocuous for the brain, thus offering society a safe, environmentally clean, and cheap alternative to plasticizers.

Main Goals

1- Build and run a mathematical model for predicting Plasticizer’s concentrations from intake to vertebrates’ brain, based on the data from the in vivo intake of known concentrations of phthalates in marine birds – MARE team.
2- Describe plasticizers’ toxicity in human iPSCs-derived neurons (2D system) and organoids (3D system) by exposing them to chronic concentrations (determined by the predictive model) and evaluate their effects on neuronal function and viability.
3- Test potential biodegradable alternatives in the same in vitro models, by replacing plasticizers by bio-based, and degradable plasticizers (produced by CEMMPRE team).

External Team

Vitor Paiva - MARE - Marine and Environment Sciences Centre, Univ. Coimbra

Sara Veríssimo - MARE - Marine and Environment Sciences Centre, Univ. Coimbra

Ivo Santos - MARE - Marine and Environment Sciences Centre, Univ. Coimbra

Patrícia Nunes Pereira - CEMMPRE – Centre for Mechanical Engineering, Materials and Processes

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