Press release: New research reveals hidden health risks from everyday objects

Endocrine disruptors (EDs) are chemicals found in everyday products that can interfere with and damage the human hormonal system. That is why the Center RECETOX of Masaryk University has joined the European research project ENDOMIX, coordinated by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Germany. The project officially started on 1 January, and its main objective is to provide comprehensive information on how exposure to these substances affects human health and to provide recommendations on how to avoid these chemicals as much as possible to minimize health risks.

29 Jan 2024

We are exposed to a large number of endocrine disruptors every day. Their health risks are the focus of the ENDOMIX project.
Photo: Falk / AdobeStock

EDs are omnipresent substances that can enter our bodies through food or drink, be absorbed through the skin, or be inhaled as tiny particles. "Even if the doses of the chemicals which we are in contact to are low, the exposure occurs over a long period of time, and this can have serious effects on our health," says Prof. Ana Zenclussen, Head of the Department of Environmental Immunology at the UFZ. Particularly dangerous are mixtures of these chemical substances, whose impact on the hormonal system will be studied, modeled, and evaluated by researchers.

The project aims to provide answers on how these substances affect our health, what diseases they can cause or accelerate, and where and how exactly these substances act in the body. The research will also focus on how mixtures of these substances affect the immune system, especially their role in chronic diseases such as asthma, allergies, reproductive disorders, and metabolic diseases.

Therefore, the project's initial phase also includes the analysis of biological samples. Masaryk University contributes samples from its long-term population studies. "We have been tracking factors affecting children's health since 1991, when almost 7,000 pregnant women from the South Moravian region joined our ELSPAC study, enabling them to follow the health of their children into adulthood," says Jana Klánová, director of the Centre RECETOX. "We are still working with these families today, but in recent years, we have also started to study their children's generation." MU scientists measure the levels of toxic substances in the blood and urine of the subjects and study the relationship between chemical exposure and the population's health. The ENDOMIX project will focus on young adults from the original ELSPAC cohort and preschoolers from The Next Generation (TNG) study, looking not only at chemical contamination but especially at its effects on the immune system.

"As part of the ENDOMIX project, we plan to analyze the microbiome in 800 fecal samples from infants who have already entered or are about to enter the CELSPAC: The Next Generation prospective cohort in Brno with their mothers. We will investigate the association between external exposure factors, such as endocrine disruptors, and the development of the microbiome in the first year of life," says the Head of the Microbiome Analysis Laboratory, Assoc. Prof. Petra Bořilová Linhartová from RECETOX.

The researchers will use artificial intelligence tools to investigate the relationships between experimental results and the underlying causes of participants' existing diseases. They will also try to identify possible differences in the effects of these substances based on age and gender. The ENDOMIX project is unique in its detailed examination of the effects of EDs and related health effects throughout a person's lifetime and in its efforts to develop practical recommendations for better protection against everyday chemicals that can affect our health.

ENDOMIX runs until the end of 2027 and is funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101136566 with around EUR 7 million. Coordinated at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). Project partners are: Institut national de la sante et de la recherche medical (INSERM, France), Fundacion Privada Instituto de Salud Global Barcelona (ISGlobal/Spain), Fundacion para el Fomento de la Investigacion Sanitaria y Biomedica de la Comunitat Valencia (FISABIO/Spain), Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine (ICL, United Kingdom), Universiteit Utrecht (UU, Netherlands), Erasmus Universitair Medisch Centrum Rotterdam (EMC, Netherlands), Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Masarykova univerzita (MU, Czech Republic), Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT), European Institute for Biomedical Imaging Resesarch (Austria). Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HADEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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