The Exposome Encompasses Human Environmental Exposures, Revealing Insights Into Lung Function

The Exposome Concept: Understanding Impact on Lung Health and Disease (A85)

2:15-4:15 p.m.

Independence Ballroom Salon E-H (Level M4), Marriott Marquis Washington

Researchers and clinicians have long recognized that environmental exposures affect lung function and dysfunction. But lung cancer, interstitial lung disease, asthma, or other chronic conditions are seldom the result of a single exposure. Susceptibility to lung disease is the cumulative effect of a lifetime of exposures from in utero through childhood and into the adult years.

“The concept of the exposome is that the environment produces cumulative changes in DNA, RNA, proteins, lipids, and metabolites in lung tissues, cells, and fluids,” says Andrew Halayko, PhD, professor of physiology and pathophysiology, and internal medicine at the University of Manitoba Max Rady College of Medicine in Winnipeg. “It is the collective change that ultimately manifests as the disease state we are interested in.”

Andrew Halayko, PhD

Dr. Halayko developed the exposome symposium with Jane E. Bourke, PhD, senior lecturer in pharmacology and head of the Respiratory Pharmacology Group at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. The session is part of the Basic Science Core program on environmental exposure and lung disease. There are two related exposome sessions as part of the program. DOHAD: Developmental Origins of Health and Disease and the Circle of Life for Lung Disease (A5) will examine the prenatal and neonatal exposome. Gene-Environmental Interaction in Interstitial Lung Disease (B88) will explore the exposome in interstitial lung disease.

The exposome includes complex and integrated molecular and cellular networks defined by environmental exposures that can underpin chronic disease. Dr. Halayko says that although cigarette smoke and air pollution are familiar exposures, less obvious exposures that impact health can include diet, infection, socioeconomic status, stress, and access to health care as well as their cumulative or age-specific effects.

Defining an exposome includes using novel data collection and analysis techniques that allow researchers to amass enormous data sets. These data sets can identify associations and links between environmental exposures and physical changes at the molecular and cellular levels. Big data is opening windows into the ways molecular circuits adapt and mis-adapt to exposures of diesel exhaust and allergens in asthma. Metabolic profiles of lipid mediators can inform environmental responses in chronic lung disease while environmental toxin transcriptomes may allow early detection and prevention of lung cancer.

During the session, speakers will explain how researchers use data sets to track clues about how exposures associate with molecular signatures to affect pathophysiology, Dr. Halayko says.

“This insight from our speakers will undoubtedly provide fuel for other investigators to tap into this rich approach to research,” he says. “The exposome concept and the data tools that are part of it are helping us identify interactions between molecules that relate to environmental exposures and create research questions that we couldn’t even imagine before. The exposome is the next level in asking better, more informed questions to understand chronic disease, its causes, and responses to treatment.”

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