The lab operates within a framework of environmental, animal and human health protection, through the implementation of 4 main thematic lines, differentiated but synergistic, which, globally, embody the concept of “One Health”.
Functional foods and genetic protection
ALFUN IR: Ana Marques
The growing demand for foods or bioactive compounds with potential to benefit human and animal health unraveled the need to develop scientifically supported knowledge about functional foods (foods with beneficial functions besides the basic nutrition). Among the diverse beneficial effects potentially provided by functional foods, ALFUN is focused, nowadays, on the antioxidant and DNA protective effects. Up to now, the research has been centered on the study of marine macroalgae and halophytes, and, recently, microalgae and fruits.
The fruit fly and mice have been used as model organisms on the ALFUN research centered on human health, and the gilthead seabream, European seabass and shrimp on the studies focused on animal health, especially on the aquaculture subject. Several techniques have been applied, namely the comet assay and the erythrocytic nuclear abnormalities and somatic mutation and recombination tests, besides the evaluation of biochemical parameters centered on the antioxidant system.
(Epi)genetic impact of biocidal and plant protection products IGEB IR: Sofia Guilherme
The main objective of the IGEB line is to investigate the effects of biocidal and plant protection products (BFP) on non-target organisms, placing a particular emphasis on the implementation of inter- and transgenerational studies, as a contribution to the elucidation of harmful effects at higher organizational levels (eg, population), emphasizing the applicability and ecological relevance of the research.
To expand the knowledge regarding the (epi)genotoxic effects of these agents, the inclusion of various animal models (e.g., crayfish, fruit fly) is prioritized, as well as the use of different experimental approaches (ex vivo and in vivo) and diagnostic tools (comet assay and DNA methylation evaluation). Additionally, and considering the wide and intensive use of BFP, this line considers the need to look for “green” alternatives, to minimize their negative impact.
Neurotoxicity, neuroprotection and behavior
N2C IR: Patrícia Pereira
The N2C line had started 10 years ago with the research of mercury neurotoxic effects in fish. The well-recognised toxicity of this metal in aquatic organisms and its human health effects were the leitmotiv for this research, together with the United Nations projections that the emissions of mercury could increase in a near future. The implemented approach is multidisciplinary, covering the research of mercury effects in the brain at biochemical and physiological levels, along with the evaluation of its histomorphological changes, reaching the examination of behavioural shifts in fish. Some results have been fascinating and original, such as finding a higher neurotoxicity of inorganic mercury forms in comparison to methylmercury (widely known by its higher toxicity).
More recently, the neurotoxicity of other relevant contaminants (e.g., pesticides) have been investigated in an alternative animal model (Caenorhabditis elegans).
Reprotoxicity and emerging contaminants
RECE IR: Cláudia Mieiro
RECE research line aims to develop innovative research on the effects of emerging contaminants (e.g., nanoparticles, disinfectants and sunscreens) on aquatic organisms, with special emphasis on the disruption of reproductive processes. The impact of contaminants on reproduction (reprotoxicity) is of utmost importance since it has severe implications on offspring that, in turn, may compromise the health and viability of populations.
One of the main interests of RECE is the study of sub-lethal effects of realistic concentrations of emerging contaminants at various levels of biological organisation, from biochemical and sub-cellular (e.g., DNA integrity, oxidative stress and bioenergetics), through the cellular level (e.g., gamete quality) to the sub-individual (e.g., gonadal histopathology), using aquatic invertebrates and vertebrates (e.g., oyster and turbot) as test organisms.