December 18, 2018: PhD public defence - Kai Craenen - Developmental and behavioral defects following irradiation during neurulation, and prevention with folic acid - KULeuven

Name: Kai Craenen

Date: December 18, 2018 15:00h


KULeuven, Zoölogisch Instituut
Naamsestraat 59, 3000 Leuven, aula 02.21
(entrance via Charles Deberiotstraat 40)

Developmental and behavioral  defects following irradiation during neurulation, and prevention with folic acid

Irradiation during neurulation is known to increase the risk for malformation of the eye and neural tube, but knowledge on the underlying mechanisms and persistent adult effects is very sparse. Importantly, as pregnant women may be exposed to radiation, particularly to low doses of X-rays in medical care, there is an urging need for a thorough exploration of these knowledge gaps.

As a collaborative effort between the Radiobiology Unit of the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) and the research group for Neural Circuit Development and Regeneration (NCDR, KU Leuven), we exposed pregnant C57Bl/6J mice to X-rays at embryonic day (E)7.5 to explore the molecular and cellular mechanisms of radiation-induced eye and neural tube defects. Here, we observed transcriptomic changes in the developing embryo, that potentially underlie abnormal development of the retinal pigment epithelium. In addition, we explored the long-term adult consequences of low and moderate dose exposure at E7.5 using behavioral tests and in vivo imaging. We observed primarily anomalies of the sensory system, including visual acuity problems and hyposmia, and decreased volumes of various brain regions. Finally, the efficacy of folic acid in preventing these radiation-induced health defects was assessed, and we observed that the micronutrient could decrease the prevalence of severe fetal defects such as anophthalmos,exencephaly and agnathia, whilst also preventing many of the adult anomalies. 

In all, our study is the first to explore in such detail the consequences of irradiation during the embryonic neurulation period, and we managed to identify folic acid as a potential antiteratogen-radioprotectant.

  • (KULeuven) Lieve Moons
SCK•CEN mentor:
  • Rafi Benotmane

Click here for a list of obtained PhD degrees.