Exposome, a recent concept which is gaining momentum, it highlights the impact of the environment on an individual’s health during their lifetime. European projects, health law, exposure sciences and researchers aim to understand the association between health, illness and the environment …
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Definition of the exposure and Touraine law
Exposome and diseases
Exposome and Epigenetics
Exposome models and future innovations
Definition of the exposome and public health law: Touraine law
The exposome is a concept that is beginning to gain popularity and gain momentum within the scientific community. The term, dating back to 2005, was coined by Professor Chris Wild, former director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The concept of exposome defines the study of non-genetic risk factors that can have an impact on health.
Risk factors include environmental factors (pollutants, fine particles, radiation, endocrine disruptors, noise, etc.) as well as sociological / lifestyle factors (stress, working conditions, sports, food, etc.). The exposome defines the impact of an individual’s physical, biological and social environment from conception to the end of their life. Suffice to say that the study of the exposome data is not an easy task and remains very complex due to its multifactorial dimension.
The word “exposome” is now part of French law, since the term was incorporated into article 1 of the public health law adopted in April 2015 by the National Assembly. The Touraine public health law allows environmental health to be recognized for the first time as a public health issue in its own right. The risks and impact of the environment on the development of various diseases such as cancers, respiratory diseases or food allergies are taken into account.
Exposome and diseases: the impact of the environment on health
The correlation between health and the environment has not always been clearly established, especially at the height of the study of the human genome documenting the genetic predispositions leading to the development of some diseases. However, genetics is not always able to explain the link between diseases and the genome.
It was the analysis of the exposome data on specific areas (UV, microbes, pollutants, pesticides, nutrition, etc.) that made it possible to associate the environment and diseases. Thus, air pollution has been correlated with an increased risk of respiratory diseases, especially for children, and this from their prenatal life period. The exposome also helps to explain the increase in the number of lung cancer with, for example, exposure to radon (a gas present in certain regions of France). Beyond these somewhat simplistic examples, the exposome establishes links with skin diseases, skin condition, allergies, psychiatric diseases (via, for example, exposure to endocrine disruptors or heavy metals ).
Nevertheless, these diseases remain multifactorial, so it is complicated to associate a single source or parameter with a pathology; it’s a set of environmental conditions that will increase the likelihood of triggering a medical condition or problem.
Meersens has also decided to take up the challenge and offers an exposome modeling via the Meersens application which is free and available on App Store and Play Store.The application allows you to map and decrypt the exposure around you: issues of air quality, water, harmful waves, UV, pollutants, allergens and also your diet to avoid any health problems. To further analyze the exposome, Meersens offers a connected object with biosensors allowing everyone to monitor the risks of their immediate environment. Solutions and advice are then offered to preserve one’s health and protect oneself from harmful people.
Approach to exposure measurement: expology
The challenge for research in environmental health is the development of exposome databases. For this, two approaches are possible: expology or toxicology. The first is the science of exposure assessment. Its purpose is to identify and characterize, in real situations, contact with toxic agents and their penetration into the body. It is mainly based on field observations.
Toxicology, on the other hand, studies poisons but via biological samples (hair, cells, urine, blood, saliva, etc.) from individuals. The goal is to gain systemic knowledge of all non-genome health influences.
Exposome and Epigenetics : two complementary concepts?
The exposome and the genome are dissociated but what about epigenetics and exposome? Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity, without the need for DNA mutations. Professor Paolo Vineis, of Imperial College London explains: “In DNA, epigenetic markers surround genes: they can activate or deactivate them. These markers are themselves same influenced by the environment.”Thus our environment would not have a genomic but epigenomic impact. The so-called multifactorial diseases, for which genetic mutations are not an explanatory factor, could be explained by an individual predisposition to external factors.
My exposome: models of the exposome and future innovations
“The main work in health / environment has consisted in associating a contaminant, often chemical, with a toxic mechanism and a pathology, affirms Robert Barouki, researcher at Inserm, however, the relationship between a single contaminant and a single associated effect is extremely rare and does not reflect the reality of exposures which are often multiple and complex “. Scientists must therefore develop ever more extensive means of investigation to obtain a model that is close to reality.
Various projects have been launched on the subject. The HELIX project aims to study the impact of “the exposome in the first years of life” by taking into account all the risks to which mothers and children are exposed and to relate this exposure to health, growth and development of the child. Human Exposome Project, launched through the Horizon2020 (H2020) program, wants to set up a toolbox to measure the impact of the exposome on health.