Our health is shaped by environmental factors that we humans are exposed to on a daily basis: what we eat, the air we breathe, our social interactions and lifestyle choices such as smoking and exercising. It explains an estimated 70% of the chronic disease burden. Since most aspects of our environment are modifiable, this provides a huge potential for disease prevention. Leading scientist in Europe and the USA have formalised the sum of all these environmental drivers of health and diseases as the exposome.
The exposome concept is trying to capture everything to understand which, how, in what quantities, and in what circumstances environmental drivers have an effect on our health. Interacting with the genome, it defines individual health at different stages throughout the life course, including foetal life.
Studying the Exposome requires consideration of:
The multitude of interrelated individual exposures: the specific external Exposome;
The wider behavioural and social context in which these exposures occur: the general external Exposome;
Their impact inside the human body: the internal Exposome.
Source: Utrecht University
We know far less about the exposome than we do about the human genome. So far, we only understand about half of the disease burden for which we know the environment plays a role. If we want to prevent people from becoming ill, then we need to understand the other half too. We therefore want to systematically analyse the exposome for the first time. We will start with research into the causes of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The techniques and insights from this research will also be applicable to other chronic conditions.Read More