Our health is impacted by the environment in which we grow up, live, work, enjoy sport, sleep and relax. The combination of exposures over our lifetime strongly influences the risk of the development of disease. This has given rise to the concept “exposome”; the totality of exposures people experience during their lifetime and how their bodies respond to them.
TNO is working together with partners on technology and methods to monitor and interpret these exposures, relate them to health effects and to develop effective methods of prevention.
Many common disorders are closely linked to exposures that range from lifestyle factors to chemical exposures, social interactions and stress. Collectively, these exposures have a huge impact on health in society. Many exposures can potentially be modified to prevent disease. Unfortunately, we often can’t explain why one person will develop a certain disease while another won’t, due to the complex interrelation between exposures and effects.
The exposome concept can help bridge this gap in knowledge. This will provide important information that can form the basis of prevention, for example: why one person becomes ill and another doesn’t under the same circumstances, how different exposures combined may lead to effects on health, and what the early signs of the negative effects of exposures are.
Since people spend a large part of their lives at work, occupational exposure is an important factor. Exposures at work often are higher and more complex than generally outdoors or in home environments, and working is closely related to lifestyle and behaviour (e.g. diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption) and socio-economic status. We apply the exposome concept to occupational exposures in order to develop evidence-based and effective preventive measures that enhance workplace health:
Everybody is exposed to urban exposures such as air pollution, noise and heat during their life. We therefore develop methods to better characterize exposures in an urban environment by combining sensors with high resolution environmental modelling:
That is why we develop models and biomarkers to characterise the internal exposome (doorlink pagina). In addition, we further develop and apply exposome methods, e.g. sensors, passive sampling, data mining, and (non-invasive) biomonitoring methods in large groups of workers, in the EU EPHOR project that we coordinate.
Between 15 and 20% of the people in the western world suffer from inflammatory diseases. Inflammatory processes also play a central role in many other disorders. The functioning of the immune system is driven by inflammatory balances. These balances depend on a complex interplay between intrinsic (host) and extrinsic (chemical and microbial) factors. At TNO we investigate the key extrinsic factors involved and the mechanisms and interactions through which these interact with our immune system, which is crucial for the development of safe and effective interventions and management practices for allergic and inflammatory diseases. Read more about allergic and inflammatory diseases.
Thanks to our multidisciplinary nature and our in-house experts ranging from sensor developers to exposure scientists and from systems biologists to behavioural scientists, we are able to unravel the exposome.
Together with partners from industry and research, we work in partnerships that are essential for taking this field further, towards applications. We have strategic partnerships with the NIOSH in the US and HSE in the UK and with the Utrecht Exposome Hub on exposome research. If you would like to know more about our exposome activities or collaborate with us, please get in touch.
Get in touch with Anjoeka Pronk