How can toxicogenomics inform risk assessment?
Technologies that generate information about the genome are being used to explore changes in gene expression and related proteins following exposure to chemicals. Conceptually, this information allows a greater understanding of genomic level mRNA expression (transcriptomics), cell and tissue protein expression (proteomics) and information about metabolite profiles (metabonomics). Having a greater understanding of this information alongside, empirical toxicological reference data provide for the continued evolution in our ability to understand toxicological modes of action, thereby providing a more scientific basis for extrapolation of toxicological information from animals to humans. Toxicogenomics also provides specific opportunities for improvements at different stages of the risk assessment process such as the development of new predictive models for identifying human health hazards and the identification of more precise molecular biomarkers of exposure. One possibility is that molecular fingerprinting in vivo or in vitro can be used to categorize chemicals and mixtures of chemicals into different mode of action groups. As there is indication that molecular signals differ at dose levels, it is hoped that toxicogenomic information can also contribute to the understanding and interpretation of effects seen with low dose exposure. Several gene polymorphisms have already been identified which play a role in the differing intra-species response to chemicals thus providing explanation for the observed differences in effects. It is therefore likely that a better understanding of genomic expression will enable a greater insight into the factors behind the observed variability in susceptibility to chemical exposure that can be seen in human populations