HEALS Health and Environment-wide Associations based on Large population Surveys
| Country: European Union
| Start Date:
Project Type: RTD
| Contract Number: 603946
| Organisation Type:
Consultancy, contractor or other service provider
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| Project objectives:
Assessing individual exposure to environmental stressors and predicting health outcomes implies that both environmental exposures and epi/genetic variations
are reliably measured simultaneously. HEALS (Health and Environment-wide Associations based on Large population Surveys) brings together in an innovative
approach a comprehensive array of novel technologies, data analysis and modeling tools that support efficiently exposome studies.
The general objective of HEALS is the refinement of an integrated methodology and the application of the corresponding analytical and computational tools
for performing environment-wide association studies in support of EU-wide environment and health assessments. The exposome represents the totality of
exposures from conception onwards, simultaneously identifying, characterizing and quantifying the exogenous and endogenous exposures and modifiable
risk factors that predispose to and predict diseases throughout a personís life span. The HEALS approach brings together and organizes environmental, socio-economic,
exposure, biomarker and health effect data; in addition, it includes all the procedures and computational sequences necessary for applying advanced bioinformatics
coupling thus effective data mining, biological and exposure modeling so as to ensure that environmental exposure-health associations are studied comprehensively.
The overall approach will be verified and refined in a series of population studies across Europe including twin cohorts, tackling different levels of environmental
exposure, age windows of exposure, and socio-economic and genetic variability. The HEALS approach will be applied in a pilot environment and health examination
survey of children including singletons and sets of twins and matched singletons (each twins pair having also a matched singleton) covering ten EU Member States
and an African country (the EXHES Study). The lessons learned will be translated into scientific advice towards the development of protocols and guidelines
for the setting up of a larger European environment and health examination survey.
HEALS is organized in a series of interlinked streams of activity focusing on the different aspects of individual assessment of exposure to conventional
and emerging environmental stressors and on the prediction of the associated health outcomes. These streams bring together state-of-the-art advances in
human biomonitoring and systems biology towards the development of an exposure biology paradigm, exposure monitoring technologies and advanced tools for
computational analyses of the exposure-to-effect continuum. In fact, HEALS proposes the functional integration of -omics derived data and biochemical
biomonitoring to create the internal exposome at the individual level. These data will be exploited using advanced bioinformatics tools for both descriptive
and predictive data mining. HEALS will propose a novel bioinformatics strategy focusing on biomarker fusion, and direct coupling of physiology-based biokinetic
models to metabolic regulatory networks derived from -omics analyses. In this way, the internal dose of environmental stressors will be coupled to the alterations
they bring about to gene expression, protein-protein interactions and metabolic regulation and plausible hypotheses on the respective pathways of toxicity
can be established.
The external exposome will be derived using environmental, occupational and dietary data and model fusion using efficient algorithms for mining existing
environmental monitoring datasets and ubiquitous sensing using geo-localized sensors and mobile phones. A key innovation here is the development and optimization
of the necessary software apps for data integration and the coupling of these datasets with agent-based modeling incorporating the socio-economic determinants
of population exposure to health stressors. Exposomic analysis will focus on critical stages in human life extrapolating to the whole lifespan using Bayesian
statistical modeling to construct the integrated individual exposome.
The internal and external exposome data above will be used to derive environment-wide associations between exposure and health. Novel mathematical and
computational tools will be used to explore the association between different environmental, genetic and epigenetic determinants and identified biological
perturbations and, eventually, disease phenotypes. In addition, using the HEALS methodology, a plausible pathway towards establishing causality in the
observed associations between environmental stressors and health status will be tread (see figure 1.1).
The HEALS approach and tools will be put to test through their application in a number of population studies (incl. twins studies) across different exposure
settings tackling key health endpoints of the SCALE initiative and the Parma Declaration for both children and the elderly. The overall population size involved
in these studies is up to ca. 335,000 individuals covering different age, gender and socio-economic status groups. The cohorts involved are dispersed across
Europe to provide sufficient geographic coverage so as to facilitate drawing conclusions at the EU-wide scale. These cohorts have been carefully selected
to comprise twins. The classical twin methods combined with novel technologies represent a powerful approach towards identifying and understanding the
mechanisms and pathways that underlie complex traits. In this way, epigenetic modification of both exposure to and effect of co-exposure to chemical, physical
and biological environmental stressors throughout a personís lifetime will be easier to take into account when deducing environmental exposure and health
| Achieved Objectives:
| Product Descriptions:
| Additional Information:
| Project Resources:
| Funding Programme(s):
EC FP7: Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.
| Link to Organisations:
OIKON - Ltd. Institute for Applied Ecology
Mr Zdravko Spiric
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