Skip to main content

Enhanced exposure assessment and omic profiling for high priority environmental exposures in Europe

Article Category

Article available in the folowing languages:

Environmental exposures that drive disease

During our lives, we are exposed to various pollutants and other threats that can cause disease. EU scientists studied the role that this lifetime of exposure has in the development of chronic diseases.

Climate Change and Environment
Health

Over the course of a lifetime, people are exposed to harmful substances from their environment, diet, lifestyle and occupation. The concept of the exposome refers to the complete set of exposures from conception onwards and includes external and internal components. Scientists argue that environmental contaminants can alter or dysregulate biological pathways and processes. A large amount of health data is now available from longitudinal studies of both children and adults, with detailed information on risk factors, confounding factors and outcomes. However, these studies did not explore the relationship between personalised environmental exposure data and biomarkers. The EU-funded EXPOSOMICS (Enhanced exposure assessment and omic profiling for high priority environmental exposures in Europe) initiative conducted one of the first large-scale exposome studies to better understand its role in disease. To do this, the team harnessed a range of scientific techniques. Project researchers pooled and integrated information from past short-term, experimental and long-term observational epidemiological studies covering adults, children and newborns. They also characterised the external and internal components of the exposome. To measure the exposome’s external components at critical life stages, they used novel tools such as personal sensors and smartphone technologies, as well as past research experience. The researchers focused on air and water contaminants. To measure the internal exposome, they looked at biomarkers in up to 3 000 individuals. They then integrated the external and internal measures to model and assess exposure to air and water contaminants in large population cohorts. Among other results, the researchers found higher estimates of the association between a certain class of particulate matter and asthma, cardiovascular disease and total mortality. These new risk estimates were used to recalculate the burden of disease attributable to air pollution. The EXPOSOMICS initiative showed that an exposome approach can lead to more precise, novel and important findings that inform our understanding of the mechanisms linking exposure to common pollutants with diseases, and on preventive and regulatory action.

Keywords

Environmental exposures, air and water contaminants, exposome, EXPOSOMICS, chronic diseases, biomarkers, personal sensors

Discover other articles in the same domain of application