CMK and NARILIS expand partnership with a new joint PhD program to further explore the impact of environmental stressors on human health

Prof. Tim Nawrot, group leader at the Centre for Environmental Sciences (UHasselt) and Dr. Florence Chainiaux, group leader at NARILIS (UNamur), are collaborating since several years in the field of environmental epidemiology. They jointly supervised the doctoral thesis of Leen Luyten, which aimed at understanding how air pollution exposure during pregnancy impact early-life health. The first part, conducted at the UNamur, focused on molecular measurements in placental tissue differentially exposed to air pollution during pregnancy. The second part, conducted at the UHasselt, investigated the impact of prenatal air pollution exposure on retinal microcirculation in children at the age of 4, enrolled in the ENVIRONAGE (ENVIRonmental influence ON AGEing in early life) birth cohort. This cotutelle PhD thesis was successfully defended on 26th of March 2021 and resulted in several joint publications (Luyten et al., 2020; Luyten et al., 2020; Luyten et al., 2018).  
But the collaboration does not end there! Prof. Tim Nawrot and Dr. Florence Chainiaux has just obtained an additional co-funding in the framework of the cooperation between UNamur and UHasselt. Thanks to the support of both universities (UHasselt BOF Doctoral Fund and UNamur Fonds Spécial de Recherche FSR), a second PhD project in cotutelle is about to be launched! Building upon the work undertaken by Leen Luyten, a new PhD candidate, Joline Millen, will now investigate the impact of ambient air pollution during gestation on placental senescence. Indeed, the teams have shown that increased exposure to air pollution during pregnancy induces a shortening of the telomeres as well as an increase in oxidative stress and an overexpression of proteins associated with the senescent phenotype in the placenta, which could enhance the senescence process of the placenta. However, a controlled senescence of the placenta is involved in the proper functioning of the placenta. The objective of this new project is therefore to study whether exposure to air pollution during pregnancy can affect the "normal" senescence of the placenta and could have long-term repercussions on child development.

More info on Florence Chainiaux's research group Stress and ageing (UNamur, NARILIS)

More info on Tim Nawrot's research group Environmental biology (UHasselt, CMK)