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Prestigious ERC Grant awarded to Tina Kold Jensen for research on eliminating PFAS from the body

Tina Kold Jensen of the Department of Public Health has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant to explore whether a drug could be the key to helping individuals exposed to high levels of PFAS to rid their bodies of these harmful chemicals, and to examine their impact on liver function.

By Marianne Lie Becker, , 4/11/2024

A new grant from the European Research Council, the esteemed ERC Advanced Grant, has been awarded to Tina Kold Jensen, a professor and research leader in environmental medicine at the Department of Public Health. The grant will fund further research into perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) - chemicals that are widely found in the environment and known as 'forever chemicals' due to their persistence in both humans and our surroundings.

-PFAS represents one of the most pressing environmental and health challenges of our time. Tina Kold Jensen is among the world's leading researchers in this field, and this substantial ERC grant will hopefully lead to new and important knowledge, says Ole Skøtt, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at SDU.

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

A huge congratulations to Tina Kold Jensen on the ERC Advanced Grant, which is a fantastic achievement and a clear testament to world-class, excellent research. At SDU, we are immensely proud to have researchers who distinguish themselves among the best in Europe in this way. It underscores our position as a university of international calibre with strong roots in Southern Denmark.

Jens Ringsmose, Rector of the University of Southern Denmark

Potential to reduce PFAS in the next generation

A drug previously used to treat high cholesterol has shown promising results, and in the upcoming project, Tina Kold Jensen will further investigate this drug's potential to increase the excretion of PFAS in those highly exposed.

-If successful, it would mean we can offer a treatment to these individuals, who have been involuntarily exposed to PFAS and are understandably concerned. It will be significant for young people of reproductive age. Especially for 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.

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

 PFAS is absorbed in the intestines and accumulates in the body, with long half-lives. PFAS has many harmful health effects, including elevated cholesterol and liver function impact.

Link between PFAS and cardiovascular diseases?

Tina Kold Jensen's project, now supported with an 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 enzymes in the blood in both adults and children.

-Many previous studies suggest 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, it is possible to adopt a new statistical approach to examine the correct temporal relationship in large groups of both children and adults in ongoing studies, says Tina Kold Jensen.

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

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.

About ERC Advanced Grants 

ERC Advanced Grants support outstanding research leaders who are already established with recognized achievements. The grant, of up to 2.5 million euros over five years, targets projects that demonstrate groundbreaking ambition and feasibility.

Recipients of the ERC Advanced Grant are characterized as active researchers with significant research accomplishments in the last 10 years. These achievements highlight their extraordinary leadership and originality within their field of research.

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


Editing was completed: 11.04.2024