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Marchant co-authors report
Marchant co-authors report urging genomics technology development
A new national report that urges government agencies to accelerate the incorporation of genomic data into risk assessments of chemicals and medicines was co-authored by Gary Marchant, a professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and executive director of its Center for the Study of Law, Science, & Technology.
The report, "Applications of Toxicogenomic Technologies to Predictive Toxicology and Risk Assessment," was published this month by the National Research Council, a division of the National Academy of Sciences. It's the result of a two-year study conducted by a 16-member panel of scientists and professors from around the country and sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The report pointed out that an individual's genetic variations can leave him or her particularly susceptible to the effects of chemicals or side effects of medications. For example, certain inherited gene variations may make some people more prone to symptoms such as nausea and impaired muscle function when exposed to a common pesticide.
Chemicals and drugs often cause health problems by altering gene expression and other cell activity, and research on these processes, called toxicogenomic research, could someday lead to better toxicity tests, the committee concluded. Toxicogenomic tests also can pinpoint individuals with genetic vulnerabilities and help them avoid chemicals or medications that might make them ill, the study reported.
The researchers said a major, coordinated effort, on the scale of the Human Genome Project, is needed to fully develop the technologies and to address the ethical challenges they pose, such as protecting the confidentiality of individuals' genetic information.
Such knowledge would help develop tests that more accurately predict whether chemicals are hazardous and at what doses. Increased sensitivity of the tests could lead to better prediction and prevention of damage to fetuses at critical stages of development, as well as inform individuals about their particular genetic vulnerabilities, the report stated.
"The Committee's report is very optimistic about the role that toxicogenomic data can play in advancing personalized medicine and environment protection," Marchant said. "At the same time, the report recognizes that every potential application of toxicogenomics raises important ethical, social and legal issues that must be adequately addressed for this technology to succeed."