Air Pollution, Placental ‘Small Non-Coding RNAs’ and Brain Development

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01/01/2020 - 31/12/2022
Jordi Sunyer
Instituto de Salud Carlos III

Air pollution is the main urban-related environmental hazard, and one of the major contributors to the global burden of disease based on its cardio-vascular-respiratory impacts. The evidence of the effects of air pollution on brain development is still inadequate, mainly due to the lack of studies during the most vulnerable stages of brain development and the lack of evidence on the molecular underlying mechanisms. In mice, in utero exposure to fine particles was linked to structural brain changes. Though scarce, current evidence in children supports the importance of the prenatal period as a susceptible window of exposure. A key development is to discover the intermediate role of placental function.


Our main aim is to assess the role of the placental small non-coding (nc) RNA profile in the interrelation between the pre-natal environment and the brain development in a general population birth cohort (n=400 mother-child pairs).

The specific objectives are:

  • to extract RNA from placental biopsies and measure the small ncRNA profile;
  • to assess the association of cumulative exposure to particulate matter during pregnancy with the placental small ncRNA profile;
  • to assess the association of the placental small ncRNA profile with brain development; and
  • to assess the mediation role (the direct and indirect effect) of the placental small ncRNA profile in the association between cumulative exposure to particulate matter during pregnancy and brain development.

Studying mechanisms in pre-natal life is important because effects at this time are of a potentially irreversible nature and because the largest preventive opportunities occur during these periods.

Total Funding

141,570 €

Our Team


ISGlobal Team

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