Air pollution: Exposomics
The Exposomics project offers a new approach to studying the health effects of exposure to air pollution and water contamination, using new technologies to better understand and predict the onset of disease.
Air pollution and its health effects
Ambient (outdoor) and household (indoor) air pollution have major health impacts, affecting populations in developed and developing countries alike.
Ambient air pollution consists of emissions of complex mixtures of air pollutants from industry, households, cars and trucks. Of these pollutants, fine Particulate Matter (PM) has the greatest effect on human health. Most fine particulate matter comes from fuel combustion, both from mobile sources such as vehicles and from stationary sources such as power plants, industry, households or biomass burning.
Household air pollution is the result of cooking and heating households using solid fuels (i.e. wood, charcoal, coal, dung, crop wastes) on open fires or traditional stoves. In poorly ventilated dwellings, smoke in and around the home can exceed acceptable levels for fine particles 100-fold.
Health risks associated with air pollution include but are not limited to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.
What is the exposome?
An individual’s exposome is the sum of the exposures which they are subjected to during their lifetime. These include external exposures originating from the environment (suchas air pollution), as well as internal exposures produced inside the body, including the action of hormones or gut microbes.
The Exposomics project
As exposures interact with the body, a characteristic metabolic or molecular fingerprint is generated. Exposures may also trigger genetic mutations or other transformations. These responses can be studied to gain a new understanding of the transition from health to disease.
Assessing the exposome at different stages of life delivers new insights into the causal factors and mechanisms underlying chronic disease, which may eventually lead to new strategies for preventing and treating disease.
The Exposomics project takes advantage of rapid advances in new technologies and in the omics sciences (genomics, proteomics, metabolomics), which use large-scale approaches to study biological systems. The external exposome can be measured with sensitive personal monitors and sensors. The internal exposome and the biological changes it induces in body molecules can be measured with high-throughput methods such as metabolomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, adductomics and epigenomics.
The project has the following goals:
- To use advanced personal exposure monitoring to accurately measure the air pollution related external exposome
- To use high-throughput methods (adductomics, proteomics, metabolomics, transcriptomics, epigenomis) to measure the internal exposome
- To integrate knowledge from the methods above to estimate the risk of disease in several population-based studies in Europe.
This project is funded by the European Commission (FP7).
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