NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — A new report by the National Research Council calls for a national “human toxicogenomics initiative” to better understand toxicity by developing genomic tools to identify toxic chemicals that predict “individual vulnerabilities,” creating new toxicity tests, and building a massive database to hold data about toxins and genomics.
Saying the effort should “approach the scale of the Human Genome Project,” the NRC said it will be necessary to develop toxicogenomic technologies, execute studies, and create data and biobanks and to begin to confront ethical challenges in order to realize the potential of toxicogenomics contributions to modern medicine and science.
"We have just begun to tap the potential for toxicogenomic technologies to improve risk assessment," David Christiani, chair of the NRC’s Committee on Applications of Toxicogenomic Technologies to Predictive Toxicology, said in a statement.
The report, called Applications of Toxicogenomic Technologies to Predictive Toxicology and Risk Assessment, said a typical use for a toxicogenomics-based predictive test would be one that tells an individual to expect nausea and impaired muscle function if exposed to a common pesticide.
New technologies now allow researchers to “identify toxic processes as they unfold at an early, molecular stage, long before symptoms appear,” the NRC said in the statement. Continuing to collect, store, and experiment with this type of information will make it easier to develop tests "that can more accurately predict whether a chemical will be hazardous, and at what dose.”
The NRC also proposed creating a “single public database to collect toxicogenomic data and integrate it with data on health effects generated with traditional toxicology studies.”
This database would allow researchers to study the links between molecular activity and symptoms they may cause, and to study how “multiple genetic reactions at the cellular level can combine to cause adverse outcomes.