UGA doctoral student Caroline Bissardon wins the 2016 L’Oréal-UNESCO fellowshipUNESCO 2016

Press release published by the Université Grenoble Alpes
Caroline Bissardon © Fondation L’Oréal
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Bissardon is one of 30 young women to win this year’s fellowship for Women in Science. Her research focuses on the role of selenium in the growth and development of the cartilage of the joints. This work is part of the emerging disciplinary field of medical geology, which examines the effects of environment and geography on human and animal health. Bissardon’s project also takes advantage of the powerful local research tool – the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) – to detect and analyze the extremely small levels of selenium in cartilage and other tissues.

Understanding the impact of selenium on our health

Previous work on the impact of the environment on health has shown that certain metals and minerals can have a significant impact on health. This is the case for selenium, a mineral present in many grains, and whose absence in some geological contexts may expain certain pathologies of the joints such as Kashin-Beck disease. In her dissertation, Bissardon shows that a lack of selenium during the critical growth phase for cartilage correlates with the emergence of the symtoms like those of Kashin-Beck disease or osteo-arthritis. Kashin-Beck disease affects millions of young Chinese people who live in regions with selenium-poor soil. This lack of selenium seems to affect the protein matrix in cartilage, so that it no longer functions as a shock absorber.

“The point of this interdisciplinary project is to trace the important link between environmental geochemistry and health,” says Bissardon, describing her dissertation research. “Selenium is present in all cellular functions – the heart, the brain, the skin; this study is a first step towards understanding the importance of selenium in the body’s strategies for reconstructing and regenerating other tissues.”

Local scientific contact

- Caroline Bissardon, ISTerre/OSUG : caroline.bissardon (at)