IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Enhancing Nuclear Safety


The effects on health of chronic contamination with a low dose of radionuclides

(juillet 2011)

RESEARCH allowing the evaluation of radionuclide-related risks and their impact on health

The ENVIRHOM-Santé experimental research programme or Understanding the effects on health of chronic contamination with a low dose of radionuclides

The brain: A new target organ to uranium

Is the xenobiotic detoxification system affected by chronic exposure to uranium ?

Chronic ingestion of caesium 137 in a post-accident situation

Chronic exposure to caesium 137: Experimental and epidemiological studies

Metabolomics: Application in radiotoxicology

The perspectives of the ENVIRHOM-Santé programme

The brain: A new target organ to uranium

The brain – a new target organ of uranium toxicity

The brain is a new target organ of uranium toxicity. However, all the mechanisms of action are not known. The existence of cognitive disturbances following chronic uranium contamination has now been proven. The mechanism of action of uranium in the central nervous system is multimodal but has not been fully elucidated.

Whereas we have demonstrated changes in the metabolic pathways of certain neurotransmitters and a response in the form of oxidative stress, other mechanisms of action of uranium must be investigated via a multidisciplinary approach in order to understand how uranium triggers the cognitive disorders observed. The hypothesis of reduced neurogenesis will be tested in particular. In parallel to this neurochemical response of the brain, the effects of uranium on the efficacy of synaptic transmission should also be examined in slices of ex-vivo brain using electrophysiological recording. Furthermore, the central effects of uranium following chronic contamination may be harmful if this contamination occurs during the critical period of development of the central nervous system (before and after birth). This is why experiments must be carried out on young animals whose parents were contaminated during gestation and/or during lactation. 

Finally, for the health of population, it is also essential to determine whether the neurological effects observed after the ingestion of enriched and depleted uranium occur at lower exposure levels with natural uranium present in the food chain and water intended for human consumption.



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