Metabolomics, the scientific study of small molecules produced from metabolism (metabolites) is a rapidly expanding area of research that enables scientists to better understand the physiological state of an organism and its response to different types of stimuli, including nutrients and pollutants. Metabolism is the array of chemical reactions that occur within a living organism to support its ability to grow, reproduce, and respond to environmental exposures, among other processes necessary to sustain life. Metabolites can be created in response to chemicals that originate endogenously (inside the body) or exogenously (outside of the body). Preliminary research suggests that metabolomics holds promise to advance understanding of the exposome. The exposome includes all of the environmental compounds an individual is exposed to from conception to death. This environmental correlate to the genome, first described in 2005 by Christopher Wild, includes people’s exposure to complex mixtures of chemicals, as well as the substances that can be produced in the body when chemicals are metabolized.
For this reason, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a workshop to examine the potential for using metabolomics to characterize human environmental exposures and the exposome. Proofs-of-concept were discussed in two case studies on the cause of human Eosinophilic esophagitis and the effect of toxic pollutants on pregnancy in rats. Key workshop themes included technical capabilities and limitations to collect metabolomics data and the implications of this new source of data for future environmental and public health research and public health policies.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Use of Metabolomics to Advance Research on Environmental Exposures and the Human Exposome: Workshop in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/23414.
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