European research project on endocrine disruptors


The MERLON project (Merging scientific Evidence with Regulatory practices and Leveraging identification Of endocrine disruptors using New approach methodologies), coordinated by the Technical University of Denmark (TDU), has just been launched in Copenhagen, involving the 15 partner institutions, including GIGA, that make up the international consortium.

The prevalence of hormone-related health issues caused by exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is a significant, and increasing, societal challenge. Declining fertility rates together with rising incidence rates of reproductive disorders and other endocrine-related diseases underscores the urgency in taking more action. Addressing the growing threat of EDCs in our environment demands robust and reliable test methods to assess a broad variety of endpoints relevant for endocrine disruption. EDCs also require effective regulatory frameworks, especially as the current move towards greater reliance on non-animal methods in chemical testing challenges the current paradigm for EDC identification, which requires that an adverse effect is observed in an intact organism. Although great advances have been made in the field of predictive toxicology, disruption to the endocrine system and subsequent adverse health effects may prove particularly difficult to predict without traditional animal models. The MERLON project seeks to expedite progress by integrating multispecies molecular research, new approach methodologies (NAMs), human clinical epidemiology, and systems biology to furnish mechanistic insights and explore ways forward for NAM-based identification of EDCs. The focus is on sexual development and function, from foetal sex differentiation of the reproductive system through mini-puberty and puberty to sexual maturity. The project aims are geared towards closing existing knowledge gaps in understanding the effects of EDCs on human health to ultimately support effective regulation of EDCs in the European Union and beyond.

MERLON Consortium

The Merlon consortium consists of 15 legal entities from 7 different European member states (Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands, Sweden, France, Norway, Spain). The consortium includes 5 universities (National Food institute, Technical University Denmark; GIGA Neurosciences, University of Liège; Environmental Health and Toxicology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; Department of Chemical Engineering, Universitat Rovira,  Spain;  Department of Cell Biology, Cordoba University, Spain), 2 research institutes (Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Sweden; IRSET: Institute de recherche en santé, environnement et travail, Rennes, France), the Copenhagen University Hospital Denmark (Rigshospitalet; departments of Growth and Reproduction, EDMaRC, Clinical Medicine), the center for Health and environment alliance (HEAL, Belgium), the Center for Health Protecton, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM; The Netherlands) and the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA).

The University of Liège (GIGA-Neurosciences) is represented by Prof. Julie Bakker, Charlotte Cornil, and Anne-Simone Parent. They will be involved in 3 of the experimental work packages studying the effects of EDC on brain development using both in vivo and in vitro models.

The project was funded by the EC under the H2020 call “HORIZON-HLTH-2023-ENVHLTH-02”.

GIGA Contacts

Julie Bakker

Charlotte Cornil

Anne-Simone Parent

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