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Combining methodologies to assess water pollutant hazard and environmental risk in south Europe

Final Activity Report Summary - COMEHERE (Combining methodologies to assess water pollutant hazard and environmental risk in south Europe)

The 'Combining methodologies to assess water pollutant hazard and environmental risk in south Europe' (COMEHERE) project had two main objectives:
i) pose the basis for the reintegration of an experienced Italian researcher working abroad and
ii) set up a range of advanced techniques for the risk assessments of contaminated sediments in South Europe.

The first objective was accomplished with the involvement of Dr Paolo Boccazzi, a highly professional Italian researcher who spent the last 17 years carrying out scientific research in the United States, in particular in the last 5 years at MIT. Thanks to the COMEHERE grant, Dr Boccazzi was able to set up a brand new lab at the host institute in Piacenza, Italy, where he also trained young Italian researcher (one PhD, one post-doc and some master students). For the set up of the lab, Dr Boccazzi brought his professional expertise in biology and molecular biology, thus adding a range of complementary tools for pollution studies which were usually carried out at the host institute only by chemical approaches. He also brought high level scientific collaborations: a major part of the project was in fact carried out in junction with the Department of Biology at MIT, United States, and the Department of Genetics of Cambridge University, United Kigndom. A new line of research on biological studies (biosensors, gene expression approaches) has in fact started at the host institute as a main scientific outreach of the COMEHERE project, with grants already obtained and others under evaluation for new projects.

On the scientific level, COMEHERE addressed the issue of sediments contamination with novel approaches. In the first part of the work, a risk assessment strategy based on the complementary application of bioavailability chemical studies and biosensors assays was developed and successfully tested. A step forward was then carried out thanks to Dr Boccazzi expertise in biotechnology: a new approach based on DNA-microarrays technologies was tested by inoculating a xenobiotic degrading Rhodococcus strain in PCB contaminated sediments under different conditions. Global gene expression results allow the identification of several genes of potential interest for biosensors development.