Plastic chemicals, lipidomics and child neurodevelopment: are some of the apparent adverse effects of plastic chemicals on neurodevelopment mediated through lipidomic profile alterations?

The rates of neurodevelopmental disorders are rising. It is estimated 1 in 70 people in Australia are on the autism spectrum. Neurodevelopmental disorders have multiple contributing factors such as genetic, biological, and environmental. The environmental factors are of interest as understanding the role and mechanisms involved can accelerate public health translation. The prenatal and perinatal environment are critical periods that can affect many diseases in later life.

This project aims to understand how plastic product chemicals such as bisphenols and phthalates alter the lipidome at birth related to a child’s neurodevelopment, in both humans and mice.

Plastic product chemicals, such as bisphenols and phthalates are ubiquitous in our environment.  While some are Animal studies demonstrate that these chemicals act at low doses as endocrine disruptors, effecting steroid and lipid metabolism. Approximately 50% of the dry weight of the brain is composed of lipids. Advances in our ability to measure prenatal biomarkers and molecular pathways in birth cohorts can now accelerate the pace of public health translation. In particular, pregnancy provides a finite interventional time window as the effects on brain development can be lifelong.

The aim of the PhD project is to investigate how exposure to phthalates and bisphenols are associated with an increased risk of child neurodevelopmental problems through the maternal and/or cord blood lipidome using samples from a longitudinal study based in Australia. In parallel, we are investigating the effects of environmentally relevant doses in mouse models. The results for this project can help us better understand prenatal and perinatal risk factors related to neurodevelopmental disorders. Likely outcomes include policy changes to Australian and international prenatal nutrition and supplementation recommendations and updated regulations in early life.

Research team

Research group


  • Dr. Martin O’Hely – Deakin University
  • Dr. Satvika Burugupalli – Baker IDI
  • Kris Vacy (PhD candidate) – Project member

Take part in this project

Student applications

Students who are applying to study at The Florey can register their interest in this project. Refer to our step-by-step guide to help you with your application.

How to apply

Accepting students

Contact us

Professor Anne-Louise Ponsonby

[email protected]