UVILUQ : The use of liquid biopsies for monitoring the health of coastal marine ecosystems

Project start

Main Researcher



Because of their wide distribution and their ecological and nutritional importance, blue mussels are closely monitored by scientists and public health authorities. In northern Canada, and particularly in Nunavik communities located on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay and the southern shores of Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay, the consumption of bivalves, such as the blue mussel (Mytilus spp.), and other seafood, eaten raw or cooked, represents an important contribution to the traditional Inuit diet. Unfortunately, the presence of many pathogens, often linked to anthropogenic activities in the area, increases the problems of food insecurity in these communities.

In addition to providing information essential to the food security of northern communities, the analysis of blue mussel health status is an important tool for monitoring the impact of human activities on coastal marine ecosystems. Because of their ability to accumulate xenobiotics in their tissues, blue mussels have long been recognized as good biological indicators for monitoring the effects of pollution and climate change in coastal marine ecosystems.

In addition to the effects of contaminants, the use of biomarkers in mussels can be used to assess the effects of natural disasters and environmental catastrophes, such as the 1989 oil spill from the Exxon Valdez shipwreck or the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident. The data collected by using the mussel as a sentinel species can also be used to examine the effectiveness of coastal restoration or the implementation of monitoring programmes. The benefits of setting up such programmes using the mussel as a sentinel species are numerous and have been proven in many countries, notably in the United States, Europe, Norway and even in some sub-Antarctic regions, such as Kerguelen.

In some cases, such as the US Mussel Watch programme, participatory research plays an important role in sampling and programme success. However, the establishment of such observatories in northern regions faces several obstacles, including logistical challenges. However, recent advances in new sampling and molecular analysis techniques developed in the biomedical field provide a unique window of opportunity to address this issue. In this project, we propose a new sampling and analysis platform based on the concept of liquid biopsy combined with multiomics approaches.




Quebec Aboriginal Science and Engineering Association
Northern Institute for Research in Environment and Occupational Health and Safety
Parks Canada - Saguenay-Saint-Lawrence Management Area
Port of Sept Îles
CNRS - Unité Stress Environnementaux et BIOsurveillance des milieux aquatiques

Research Priorities

Priority 2 - Health
Priority 3 - Ecosystem Functioning and Environmental Protection
Priority 4 - Infrastructure and Technology
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