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Prestigious ERC Grant for research on removing PFAS from the body

Tina Kold Jensen from the Department of Public Health at SDU has received a 2.5 million euro ERC Advanced Grant to investigate whether medication can eliminate PFAS in individuals exposed to high levels of the harmful PFAS chemicals, which is is absorbed in the intestines and accumulates in the body.

By Marianne Lie Becker, , 4/11/2024

A new grant from the European Research Council to Tina Kold Jensen, a professor and research leader in environmental medicine at the Department of Public Health, will be used for further studies on perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) - chemicals that are widespread in the environment and known as 'forever chemicals' due to their persistence in both humans and our surroundings.

In the EU, many so-called hot-spot areas exist where the population is exposed to very high PFAS levels due to contamination of drinking water and food. 

PFAS is absorbed in the intestines and accumulates in the body, having long half-lives. PFAS has many harmful health effects, some of which include elevated cholesterol and impact on liver function.

Promising results with cholesterol medication

A previously used drug for high cholesterol has shown promising results. The grant will fund further studies on this drug's ability to increase the excretion of PFAS in highly exposed individuals.

- If successful, it would mean that we can offer a treatment to these people, who have been involuntarily exposed to PFAS and are understandably concerned. It will be significant for young people of reproductive age, especially women, who transfer PFAS to their fetuses and children through the placenta and breastfeeding, says Tina Kold Jensen.

- Therefore, we could potentially reduce the exposure to PFAS in the next generation, she continues.

Link between PFAS and cardiovascular diseases?

Tina Kold Jensen's project, now supported with the prestigious ERC Advanced Grant and 2.5 million euros, also aims to investigate whether there is a causal relationship between PFAS exposure and elevated levels of cholesterol and liver impact in the blood in both adults and children.

- Many previous studies indicate that individuals exposed to PFAS have higher levels of cholesterol and certain liver enzymes in the blood, which can lead to cardiovascular diseases. However, most have only examined adults and been so-called cross-sectional studies. With this grant, a new statistical approach can be adopted to examine the correct temporal relationship in large groups of both children and adults in already ongoing studies, says Tina Kold Jensen.

The research is conducted in collaboration with colleagues in the research unit of Clinical Pharmacology, Pharmacy, and Environmental Medicine Research Unit, as well as Holbæk and Bispebjerg Hospitals.

Congratulations from SDU's rector

- A huge congratulations to Tina Kold Jensen on the ERC Advanced Grant, which is an outstanding achievement and a clear testament to world-class, excellent research. At SDU, we are very proud to have researchers who distinguish themselves among the best in Europe in this way. It underscores our status as a a top international university with strong roots in Southern Denmark, says SDU's rector Jens Ringsmose.         

Tina Kold Jensen has a close collaboration with the authorities and hopes that her findings will assist the authorities in making informed decisions to regulate the use of these chemicals and prevent their harmful health effects.

- PFAS is one of the most pressing environmental and health challenges of our time. Tina Kold Jensen is one of the world's leading researchers in this field, and with this excellent ERC grant, she will hopefully generate new and important knowledge, says Ole Skøtt, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

- I am also proud that Tina, as the first SDU researcher to secure an ERC Advanced Grant within the Horizon Europe framework programme, and to my knowledge, is also the first female SDU researcher to obtain this type of grant.

Meet the researcher

Tina Kold Jensen is a professor at the research unit Clinical Pharmacology, Pharmacy and Environmental Medicine at the Department of Public Health, SDU.


Editing was completed: 11.04.2024