Public Release: 

Puberty onset - influence of nutritional, environmental and endogenous regulators?

A specific targeted research project funded through the European Commission, 6th Framework Programme, Priority 5, Food Quality and Safety

University of Helsinki

The European Commission has pointed out the need to improve the health and well-being of European citizens through a higher quality of their food, improved control of food production and of related environmental factors. Identification of environmental factors that are detrimental to health, and better understanding of the mechanisms involved are necessary to determine how to prevent or minimise these effects and risks.

Environmental exposures during development are considered to be of special importance. Developing organ systems may be very susceptible to various exogenous factors, and exposures during the critical stages of development may result in long-term and permanent adverse effects. The new research project, PIONEER, addresses the phenomenon of precocious puberty (early onset of puberty), observed in humans in Europe and other parts of the world, and suspected to be linked with environmental, including nutritional factors. It should be pointed out that besides the environment, numerous intrinsic physiological and genetic factors regulate the onset of puberty, and by and large the mechanisms that underlay the onset of normal puberty and its pathological variant, precocious puberty, are still poorly understood. Therefore, in order to understand the possible roles of environmental factors in the aetiology of precocious puberty, PIONEER will also explore the endogenous factors that regulate the physiology of puberty onset.

Nutritional factors influence human health through complex interactions between the genetic susceptibility, other environmental exposures, life-style factors and socio-economic factors. PIONEER aims at identifying nutritional factors that are directly or indirectly involved in puberty onset, taking into account the genetic background, which may determine the individual susceptibility to exogenous factors causing early onset of puberty. The major goal is to identify the settings in which the individuals are at high risk to develop precocious puberty.

PIONEER consortium consists of 12 research groups with a wide range of expertise in clinical and experimental sciences. There are 11 research groups from 6 European countries and one from Pakistan. Funding from EC is €3 million in total for three years.

The application process of PIONEER was supported by the CASCADE Network of Excellence ( CASCADE was launched in February 2004 within EU's sixth framework programme. CASCADE aims to provide Europeans with a durable, comprehensive and independent network of excellence in research, risk assessment, and education on health risks that are associated with exposure to chemical residues in food.


Pioneer - Participating Institutions:

Coordinator: University of Turku, Finland
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France
Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Semmelweis University, Hungary
Imperial College London, UK
Institute of Pediatric Endocrinology, Charite-University-Medicin Berlin, Germany
Karolinska Institute, Department of Biosciences, Sweden
Karolinska Institute, Department of Woman and Child Health, Sweden
Kuopio University Hospital, Finland
The Aga Khan University, Pakistan
University of Helsinki, Finland
University of Leipzig, Germany
University of Rome, Italy

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