Deep breath: the effects of the environment on health are being monitored.
Think of it as a benevolent Big Brother. European researchers are gearing up to monitor thousands of people by giving them smartphones to record the chemicals to which they are exposed every day.
Two projects this week announced that they had won a combined €17.3 million (US$22.4 million) from the European Commission to study the ‘exposome’ — the effects of environmental exposures on health. The researchers hope that the four-year studies will benefit public health in ways that genome research so far has not.
Genome-wide association studies, in which scientists search for genetic variants linked to disease, have failed to fully explain why some people are more susceptible than others to chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. “There’s been too much emphasis on genetic factors, which contribute relatively little to disease compared with environmental factors,” says Martyn Smith, a toxicologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who is participating in the newly funded Exposomics project. Paolo Vineis, an environmental epidemiologist at Imperial College London, leads the €8.7-million project. (more…)