NAS report offers new tools to assess health risks from chemicals

October 10, 2007

Determining how thousands of chemicals found in the environment may be interacting with the genes in your body to cause disease is becoming easier because of a new field of science called toxicogenomics. A new report issued today by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) recognizes the importance of toxicogenomics in predicting effects on human health and recommends the integration of toxicogenomics into regulatory decision making. The NAS report was commissioned by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a leader in the development of toxicogenomic technologies.

Toxicogenomic technologies provide tools to better understand the mechanisms through which environmental agents initiate and advance disease processes. They can also provide important information to help identify individuals that are more susceptible to disease risks posed by certain environmental agents than the general population.

"Using toxicogenomic technologies will open the door for public health decision makers who need to decide in a timely and accurate manner what chemicals are safe and which ones are not," says Christopher Portier, Ph.D., Associate Director, NIEHS and Director, Office of Risk Assessment Research.

The report from the NAS National Research Council (NRC) entitled "Applications of Toxicogenomic Technologies to Predictive Toxicology and Risk Assessment" states that the technological hurdles that could have limited the reproducibility of data from toxicogenomic technologies have been resolved and recommends ways for the field to move forward.

"NIH and others have invested in the development of these tools and have already tackled many of the tough technical questions. We are now ready to move to the next phase of technology development, refined standardization and validation, so these tools can be even more useful to regulatory agencies," says Portier.

"The NIEHS and NTP have been steadily increasing the use of toxicogenomic and other technologies derived from the molecular biology revolution," said Samuel H. Wilson, M.D., NIEHS Acting Director. The research and initiatives supported through the National Center for Toxicogenomics and the Toxicogenomics Research Consortium, for example, were at the forefront of these technologies and were leaders in the development of many of the standards for quality and reproducibility that are used today.

The report, which was prepared by a panel of 16 scientists assembled by the NRC, provides a broad overview of the potential benefits arising from toxicogenomic technologies, describes challenges regarding use of new technologies, and provides 14 recommendations to achieve the potential benefits of these technologies.
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To read or order the "Applications of Toxicogenomic Technologies to Predictive Toxicology and Assessment" report, please visit http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12037.

The primary mission of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/) (NIEHS), one of 27 Institutes and Centers at the National Institutes of Health, is to reduce the burden of human illness and disability by understanding how the environment influences the development and progression of human disease. For additional information, visit the NIEHS Web site at http://www.niehs.nih.gov/home.htm

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is an interagency program established in 1978 by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, predecessor of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program was created as a cooperative effort to coordinate toxicology testing programs within the federal government, strengthen the science base in toxicology, develop and validate improved testing methods, and provide information about potentially toxic chemicals to health, regulatory, and research agencies, scientific and medical communities, and the public.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) - The Nation's Medical Research Agency - includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov/

NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

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