022-0222148-2135 Exposure to Metals and their Effects in Pregnancy and Postnatal Period


Principal Investigator: Martina Piasek

Toxic metals (such as lead, cadmium, mercury or arsenic) are ubiquitous environmental pollutants that occur in the ecosystem naturally or through human activity. Ill effects are related to metal overload due to external exposure or genetic factors (disturbed copper or iron metabolism), and to the deficiency or imbalance of essential metals and metalloids in the body (iron, copper, zinc, calcium, selenium). Women and children are vulnerable groups for ill effects of metals due to specific physiological features that can result in increased metal accumulation during childbearing age, gestation, lactation, and during child growth and development.

The aim of this project is an integrated assessment of exposure, biological effects, and interactions of toxic (cadmium, mercury, lead) and essential elements (iron, zinc, copper, selenium) during pregnancy/prenatal period and postnatal development. Sources of exposure will be evaluated by analysing metal content in food, soil, and selected tissues of wild animals, and using epidemiological variables in women. Metal concentrations in human placentas, in maternal and umbilical cord blood, and in organs and tissues of experimental animals exposed to toxic metal (cadmium or mercury) will serve as biomarkers of internal exposure. The effects of metal exposure will be assessed through steroid hormone concentrations in human and animal placental tissue. In experimental animals, we will also evaluate the methods for decreasing metal retention, such as supplementation with mineral (e.g. essential element selenium), vitamin (e.g. vitamin C) and/or chelation treatment (by deferoxamine, D-penicillamine, succimer, unithiol, deferiprone, or Prussian blue). The efficacy of these treatments in alleviating metal toxicity will be assessed through indicators of metal-induced oxidative stress. The proposed research will provide a new insight into the reproductive and perinatal toxicology of metals, into their toxicokinetics, and into the antidotal therapy in the young. Possibilities of research application are in public health measures, which include detection and prevention of metal exposure in vulnerable population groups, women in childbearing age and infants, as well as procedures for reduction of toxic metal body retention in postnatal period.