Predicting tap water neurotoxicity using laboratory model organisms

The Project

We're currently navigating the 'chemosphere', surrounded by an array of chemical compounds that wield significant influence over ecosystems and the diverse populations that inhabit them—plants, animals, and humans alike. This means biological organisms are constantly exposed to low concentrations of neuroactive chemicals, affecting the nervous system. One major avenue of exposure is through drinking water, and numerous studies have linked chemical intoxications to neurological effects in humans.

Our mission? To predict the chronic sublethal neurotoxic effects of these chemicals, safeguarding both human health and the environment. How? By identifying hazardous neuroactive chemicals (pesticides, drugs, industrial products, and more) in real water samples from different neighbourhoods in Barcelona. Using innovative behavioural assays in our lab, we don't only detect these chemicals; we aim to characterize their unique fingerprints.

But that's not all—we're taking it a step further. By combining behavioural responses with metabolomic studies and cutting-edge physico-chemical analyses of organic and inorganic samples, we're delving deep into the intricacies. The results we gather from our multivariate study, featuring model organisms like zebrafish and Daphnia, aren't just informative—they're highly predictive, directly applicable to various living organisms, including humans.

Ready to be part of ground-breaking research? Join us on this journey toward a clearer understanding of the chemicals shaping our world!

Matching profiles
  • Students interested in biochemistry, biology, biotechnology, chemistry, ecology, ecotoxicology, toxicology, neurosciences, engineering.
Learning objectives
  • Utilise cutting-edge biological methods: Demonstrate the importance of surveillance studies using state-of-the-art, high-throughput in vivo biological methods, showcasing an understanding of their relevance and application in scientific research.
  • Develop problem-solving skills: Formulate effective solutions to a current environmental and health challenge, applying the One Health concept, and critically assess their potential impact.  
  • Promote environmental awareness:Design and implement strategies to raise awareness within local communities regarding potential risks associated with environmental factors.
  • Scientific approach and experimental planification
  • Knowledge package about the main model organisms used in toxicology (Danio rerio and Daphnia magna); and the behavioural, biochemical and analytical techniques of study. 
  • Sampling campaign of Barcelona’s waters
  • Physico-chemical characterization of samples
  • Preparation of water extracts and exposure solution
  • 1st Sublethal Endpoint: Behavioural assays in zebrafish and Daphnia 
  • 2nd Sublethal Endpoint: Cardiac activity and respirometry assays in aquatic organism.
  • 3rd Endpoint: Biological sampling and Biochemical analyses
  • Data treatment and results integration
  • Publication strategy and redaction
  • Project communication and results dissemination
Required materials
  • Laptop and lab coat. 
Coordinators of the project

Juliette Bedrossiantz

  • Half of her studies were done as an Erasmus student before graduating in Physiology and Toxicology at University of Toulouse.
  • Studied the neurotoxic effects of chemical substances in aquatic organisms to complete her PhD in Neurosciences (Autonomous University of Barcelona)
  • During her thesis, she developed methodologies of detection for chemical risk assessment in living organisms.
  • She implements high-throughput automated systems based on video acquisition for the study of behavioural effects in vertebrate and invertebrate species.
  • Analytical and behavioural results allow her to assess chemical hazard, decipher toxicological mechanisms and prevent the risk for One Health.
Associated researchers

Carlos Barata

  • Dr. Barata (h-index = 38, 179 publications, 4578 citations) is a senior ecotoxicologist that works at IDAEA since 2007.
  • His main scientific activities are in the field of water quality.
  • He works on the development of cost-effective toxicity tests and study of biological responses to toxic stressors.
  • He currently leads 3 national projects with Dr. Raldúa and supervises 4 PhD thesis.

Demetrio Raldúa

  • Dr. Raldúa (h-index=35, 97 publications, 3,344 citations) is specialized in several aspects of vertebrate physiology and toxicology.
  • His current research interest is in understanding the molecular bases of the neurotoxic effects of some environmental pollutants and drugs.
  • He tries to link molecular pathways to adverse effects at neurobehavioral level, using zebrafish as vertebrate model.
  • Currently, he coordinates the NATO project (NeuroTICs), on the therapeutic potential of several peptides to protect against neurotoxic industrial chemicals.

Eva Prats

  • Graduated and PhD in Biological Sciences by the University of Barcelona, specialized in molecular biology.
  • Head of the Animal Facility at the Research and Development Center (CID-CSIC). Responsible for animal welfare and president of the Bioethics Committee.
  • Responsible for the aquatic facilities dedicated to the implementation of technologies for zebrafish research.
  • Involved in the understanding of the molecular bases concerning the neurotoxic effects of environmental pollutants and drugs, using zebrafish as a model.
  • Studying the effects of neuroactive pollutants in aquatic ecosystems and assessing the potential risks for human health.
The center

The Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDÆA) is a multidisciplinary research institute focused on the scientific understanding of key environmental challenges facing society, especially those linked to water and air quality issues.