CIHR grants $5 million to MUHC/McGill research

MONTREAL, February 15, 2010 - Two teams from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and McGill University received significant support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) amounting to $5 million over five years. This investment will support the following studies on environment and reproductive health:

CIHR Team on the Effects of brominated flame retardants on reproductive health: animal, human, ethical, legal and social studies

The CIHR Team led by Dr. Cindy Goodyer, director of the Endocrine Research Laboratory at the RI-MUHC-Montreal Children's Hospital, and Dr. Barbara Hales, professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at McGill, with Dr. Peter Chan, Dr. Roman Jednak, Dr. Bernard Robaire, and Dr. Jacquetta Trasler from the RI-MUHC and McGill received $2.5 million in CIHR funding. This research project involves a multidisciplinary team from five Canadian universities (McGill University, Université de Montréal, University of Toronto, York University, University of Western Ontario). They will study the impact of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) on reproductive health by investigating the mechanisms underlying effects on development and reproduction.

At present, more than 80% of human exposure to BFRs is due to contaminated dust in our immediate living spaces with the remainder coming from food. "Data suggest that the BFRs are impacting early stages of human development and that at least one outcome is abnormal male reproduction," explains Dr. Goodyer, also an associate professor of Pediatrics and Experimental Medicine at McGill. "We will investigate the impact of BFR exposure in animal models and on human reproduction, focusing on fertility and developmental abnormalities of reproductive systems. Another of our goals will be to explore the ethical, legal and social issues raised by these results," she says. "This is a serious issue: not only is an individual's health potentially at risk but also that of future generations."

 CIHR Team on the Impact of exposure to phthalates, their metabolites and "green" plasticizers on male reproductive health

The CIHR Team led by Dr. Bernard Robaire, researcher in the Human Reproduction and Development Axis of the RI-MUHC, involving Dr. Peter Chan, Dr. Martine Culty, Dr. Barbara Hales, Dr. Makoto Nagano, and Dr. Vassilios Papadopoulos from the RI-MUHC and McGill and Dr. Viviane Yargeau, Dr. David Cooper and Dr. Milan Maric from McGill, and their collaborators from Dalhousie University, Université Laval, York University, and University of Western Ontario, has received $2.5 million. They will study the mechanisms underlying the male reproductive toxicity of phthalates, a family of compounds found in plastics.

"One of our goals is to elucidate the targets of phthalates and their metabolites in cells in the developing and adult testis," explains Dr. Robaire, also a professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics and Obstetrics and Gynecology at McGill. "We also need to determine - and this is a real issue for our future - the effects of possible replacement plasticizers on these targets. The challenge is to replace phthalates in plastics by 'green' plasticizers, which should not be toxic and, ideally, should be biodegradable to avoid any accumulation in the environment. More research is essential to understand the possible impact of these compounds on the endocrine system and, more specifically, how they may adversely affect male reproduction."

"The two research teams will provide new insight into the reproductive health effects of these two important classes," says Dr. Michael Kramer, Scientific Director at CIHR. "The research will not only yield new knowledge, but also should have an important impact on future regulatory policy."

"I am extremely thankful to CIHR for their support of this innovative research," says Dr. Vassilios Papadopoulos, director of the Research Institute of the MUHC. "These two team grants, over the next five years, will lead to a better knowledge of the impact of environmental exposures on reproductive health which could have a major worldwide effect."

"The two teams of investigators based at MUHC/McGill are in fact the only two grants given by CIHR in this special competition on reproductive health and the environment," concludes Dr. Rémi Quirion, Scientific Director, DMHUI, Professor, Vice-Dean of Life Sciences and Strategic Initiatives and Senior University Advisor (Health Sciences Research), McGill University. "This clearly demonstrates the excellence and leadership position of our researchers in this critically important field."


The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's agency for health research. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health-care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 13,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

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For further information: Julie Robert, Communications Coordinator (research), MUHC Public Affairs and Strategic Planning, (514) 843-1560,; David Coulombe, Media Specialist, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, (613) 941-4563,