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New Center a Stroke of Gene-ius.

NIEHS scientists are working with the Human Genome Project to make environmental medicine uniquely individual. On 7 December 2000, the NIEHS officially opened the National Center for Toxicogenomics (NCT) to begin studying how thousands of genes interact and respond to environmental exposures during different stages of health and disease. Some of the diseases associated with environmental factors that toxicogenomics may help to elucidate include cancer, pulmonary disease, neurodegenerative disorders, developmental disorders, birth defects, reproductive dysfunction, and autoimmune disease. Toxicogenomics is a relatively new field that uses microarray technology and incorporates information from the Human Genome Project to develop highly individual toxicologic assays. Thus, says Ben Van Houten, the coordinator for the new center, the field offers the "interesting ability to personalize medicine."

Toxicogenomics tracks simultaneously the response of thousands of genes to environmental stimuli using glass slides of DNA combined with computational data analysis of the genes. The NIEHS has developed an innovative microarray technology called the ToxChip, and is building a library of ToxChip patterns that will eventually represent all known toxicants. Such tools should give environmental health researchers the ability to identify people who are at particular risk for being harmed by specific toxicants by enabling them to study how genes respond to particular chemicals. This may allow scientists to predict who might be susceptible to developing a particular disease and what the potential adverse responses might be.

The research produced by toxicogenomic studies promises to contribute to advancing intervention and prevention approaches to environmental diseases. The NCT will work closely with the Environmental Genome Project to refine gene expression study techniques to help pinpoint variances in genetic susceptibility among people. NIEHS researchers are in the process of resequencing DNA repair enzyme and cell cycle control genes. Center projects will further work toward expanding the knowledge base on proteomics, or the micro-level study of proteins.

The NCT's database will eventually include the 20 years of toxicologic data contained in the National Toxicology Program archives. Van Houten says that although not all the data have been entered into a computer yet, the ultimate goal is to link this information to the NCT's database.

Toxicogenomics will also help guide federal agencies and legislators to develop guidelines and laws that regulate the concentrations of various chemicals in the environment. Guidelines based on firm scientific data will provide a strong basis for health-related policy and regulation.
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Author:Greene, Lindsey A.
Publication:Environmental Health Perspectives
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Previous Article:Arrays Cast Toxicology in a New Light.
Next Article:Environmental Genome Project: A Positive Sequence of Events.

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