Theme 6: Biomarkers, Biotechnology, Ecotoxicology and Human Health

Theme leader: Alain Thiéry (Aix-Marseille University)

Populations and ecosystems of the Mediterranean basin, a region densely populated, are subject to strong anthropogenic pressures. Qualitatively contamination, whether air, land or aquatic, are varied organic substances such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (e.g. benzo (a) pyrene), organochlorine pesticides (POCs) (e.g. lindane, chlordecone in Martinique) or inorganic (trace metals, nanoparticles (NPs) such as metal oxides – e.g. titanium dioxide, ...)

Axis 6 includes more than thirty-five scientists with complementary skills in four synergistic areas:
(i) the diagnosis and quantification of pollution impacting organisms and ecosystems,
(ii) the study of their effects in terms of biological, physiological, and behavioural changes
(iii) research into organisms and techniques to clean up environmental pollution,
(iv) to study the risks of environmental or professional exposure and the effect on human health.

The group conducts research in both theoretical and applied fields such as: (i) the genotoxicity (primary DNA damage ...), (ii) the analysis of biomarkers of antioxidant defenses (acéthylcholinestérases, carboxylesterase, TBARS - lipid peroxidation), (iii) proteins involved in stress defense mechanisms/resistance (heat shock proteins (HSP), metalloproteins ...) multixénobiotiques resistance system (MXR) Cytochrome P450 inflammatory process, (iv) the development of methods to diagnose infection based on bioindicator organisms in the terrestrial and aquatic environment, (v) bioremediation with the selection of native species that by stabilizing mechanisms and / or purification to ensure decontamination of contaminated soil, (vi) research deleterious effects of organic contaminants and nanoparticles on fertility after in vivo human exposure.

In this context the Axis teams have a wide variety of investigative techniques, integrating the organisations of the IMBE and AMU (especially the electron microscopy services), which allows them to position themselves at the forefront of regional and national level research in toxicology and ecotoxicology. Interdisciplinarity is the heart of the Axis 6 of IMBE. Among the topics of interfaces, it should be noted, ecotoxicology, Nanotoxicology, the genotoxicology, the risk of exposure to human health (infertility ...), environmental assessments, ecological and environmental engineering.
Teams Axis 6 have specific tools to test and analyze the functional mechanisms of the effects of contaminants on living. Of particular note:

  • The development of innovative genotoxicity testing.
  • The creation of a single database in France, ’the Centre of Biological Resources – Sperm-Bank- at La Conception Hospital, Marseille, in relation to medicine and health that keeps biological samples of more than 3000 infertile patients, to better understand the effects of exposure on sperm balances.
  • Worksites within a network of apple orchards in the Southeast region with known treatment schedules, for studies of the impacts of pesticides on terrestrial invertebrate populations.
  • The creation of mesocosms to study the effects of nanoparticles on aquatic environments.