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The HELIX Exposome project, building a healthy picture


The ‘exposome’ concept was coined in 2005 by Chris Wild as the “totality of human environmental exposures from conception onwards, complementing the genome.” Major environmental hazards may lead to serious, chronic conditions with large societal and economic costs. The recognition that these exposures can significantly affect population health is a key driver behind the recent investment in research to better understand the risk of disease of individuals in terms of multiple exposures. In 2012, the European Commission launched the FP7 Exposome Research Programme with the first two projects – HELIX and EXPOsOMICS - ever funded to start mapping the exposome. Last month, a third project in this field (HEALS) was given the green light, and also in the USA, initiatives are now being funded.

HELIX, led by CREAL, is focusing on the first years of life, as pregnancy and early childhood are vulnerable times for exposures to have effect on development and health at later stages in life. Research thus far has almost uniquely focused on single exposure-health effect relationships, which often does not provide a realistic image of our daily life.  HELIX is therefore taking a multi-exposure approach, measuring a range of chemical and physical environmental hazards in food, consumer products, water, air, noise, and the built environment, in pre- and postnatal early-life periods.

Six European birth cohorts, with a total of 30.000 mothers and children, are collecting data through questionnaires, diaries and analysis of biological samples.  The HELIX subcohort, child and pregnancy panel studies are carried out with innovative personal monitoring kits based on smartphone technology and ‘omics’ lab sciences. Biomarker technology and statistical tools are implemented to characterise early-life exposure to multiple environmental hazards and associate these with child health outcomes.

EXPOsOMICS is looking more specifically at air pollution and water contamination. Rather than early-life, this project looks at health effects at different stages in life.

By learning more about the environment-physical health relationship, we hope to contribute to improving preventive disease strategies, which leads to lower health costs and a reduction of the environmental burden of disease.

For More Information:

Twitter: @HELIXexposome

Facebook: HELIXExposome

Linkedin: HELIX EXPOSOME Project