The exposome and health: Where chemistry meets biology

Roel Vermeulen, Emma L. Schymanski, Albert-László Barabási, Gary W. Miller
Science 24 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6476, pp. 392-396
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay3164


Despite extensive evidence showing that exposure to specific chemicals can lead to disease, current research approaches and regulatory policies fail to address the chemical complexity of our world. To safeguard current and future generations from the increasing number of chemicals polluting our environment, a systematic and agnostic approach is needed. The “exposome” concept strives to capture the diversity and range of exposures to synthetic chemicals, dietary constituents, psychosocial stressors, and physical factors, as well as their corresponding biological responses. Technological advances such as high-resolution mass spectrometry and network science have allowed us to take the first steps toward a comprehensive assessment of the exposome. Given the increased recognition of the dominant role that nongenetic factors play in disease, an effort to characterize the exposome at a scale comparable to that of the human genome is warranted.