Beluga Health

Development of new transcriptomic health assessment tools to evaluate the health effects of contaminants in the endangered St. Lawrence Estuary beluga

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Belugas from the St. Lawrence Estuary are endangered and significant threats include high levels of endocrine disrupting contaminants, alongside other anthropogenic stressors. The population is assessed at approximately 900 individuals, and has failed to show any marked sign of recovery in recent decades. This population has reported elevated concentrations of organohalogen contaminants (i.e., polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlorinated pesticides, short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) and flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers 

Robert Michaud

(PBDEs) and emerging compounds)) which may be contributing to their decline. Recent studies showed that several of these organohalogens alter the regulation of thyroid and estrogen axes as well as lipid metabolism of SLE belugas.  The aim of the study is to apply 

RNA-seq technology to increase the available molecular information related to beluga and to develop new transcriptomic health assessment tools in order to further evaluate the biological effects of contaminants in the SLE beluga. RNA-sequencing will be performed on skin biopsy samples collected from SLE beluga whales as well as from individuals harvested by Inuvialuit community members on Hendrickson Island in the Beaufort Sea. These results will help contribute to the protection and recovery of the endangered SLE beluga.

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Antoine Simond

Relevant Lab Members – Antoine Simond (Post Doc)