Methyl mercury is a present environmental pollutant and especially relevant for exposure through marine food. Methyl mercury is a well studied compound, but a complete understanding of its potential health hazards is still lacking. The central nervous system is a particularly sensitive target organ for MeHg, particularly during early life stages, but also certain lifestyle diseases are known to be affected. Methyl mercury is involved in Ca2+ homeostasis and signaling, which makes it a potential factor with impact on obesity development and insulin secretion.
Exposure to MeHg is frequently associated with neurotoxicological effects including altered motor function and memory and learning disabilities. In particular, the developing central nervous system is vulnerable to exposure even at levels that have no detectable effects in adults. Essential nutrients, such as selenium (Se) and long chained polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are known to ameliorate the toxic effects of MeHg. Selenium may bind to MeHg and thereby reduce its bioavailability, but several additional mechanisms may occur.
In this project we aim to investigate effective doses of methyl mercury (MeHg) to study it toxicity using different cell systems and animal models. In particular, the toxicity of MeHg on neurons and pancreatic beta-cells will be examined. We further aim to investigate the underlying mechanisms by which MeHg mediates its toxicity. Neurotoxicity will be studied using cell lines and zebra fish, whereas beta-cell toxicity will be studied using cell lines and rodents.