|NAS Report Offers New Tools to Assess Health
Risks from Chemicals
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. 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/.
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 www.nih.gov.