People are exposed to myriad environmental factors that influence their health across the lifecourse. In fact, it's believed that many adult diseases, including cancer, arise early in life. Studies to uncover the links between environmental exposures and human health led to the burgeoning of a new field called ‘exposomics’. ‘Exposomics’ studies all health-relevant exposures that an individual experiences, and leverages untargeted assays, to estimate the “internal” environment from biological samples. We use novel biological matrices to uncover exposures and biological pathways linked with disease.
The laboratory's research focuses on the exposome concept – the idea that we want to measure all exposures in the body throughout the lifecourse in order to understand the multi-factorial causes of disease.
Practically, we break this down into the external exposome and the internal exposome. The external exposome includes environmental exposures that we’re most used to hearing about- things like air pollution, and exposures through the food we eat and the vitamins and prescription drugs we take. We also have life-style exposures such as exercise or cigarette smoking, stress factors, and exposures to infections. These chemicals or viruses can enter our bodies and circulate in our blood and tissues. These circulating chemicals can interact with our biology in combination with other factors like BMI, current or past disease status, and sex to change our molecular readouts– this is the internal exposome.
The Laboratory of Metabolomics and Exposomics Phenotyping measures these internal exposures using state-of-the-art untargeted assays.
The Laboratory of Metabolomics and Exposomics Phenotyping has three main areas of research.
newborn dried blood spots and cancer
Newborn dried blood spots are collected from almost all infants about 48 h after birth as part of the newborn screening program. Many times they are archived and can be used for research. We are leveraging this valuable resource to interrogate the newborn exposome to identify early life exposures linked with childhood leukemia and testicular cancer.
maternal and women's health
Women undergo multiple stages throughout their lives with major biological changes, from puberty, to pregnancy, to menopause. These may be timepoints of particular vulnerabilities to exposures that may adversely effect their health. We are performing exposomic studies in several cohorts with a lens towards women's health outcomes.
fetal exposures and autism spectrum disorder
Tooth formation begins during the second trimester of gestation, and traps chemicals due unique morphology like an exposure "hard drive". We are using teeth naturally shed during childhood and adolescence to go back in time and identify fetal exposures linked with ASD.