This is a scientific sub-discipline that combines toxicology (the study of the nature and effects of poisons) with genomics (the investigation of the way that our genetic make-up, the genome, translates into biological functions). It has come into being only in the past couple of years. It has been made possible through an investigative technique using microarrays (also called DNA chips), which contain many hundreds or thousands of short DNA strands, each in its own compartment. By washing a solution of a substance over the whole chip at once, the section of DNA affected can be made to fluoresce, so indicating which genes are turned on by the substance and so suggesting its likely effect on the body (in the jargon of the business, taken from computing, the chips are massively parallel discovery processes). It may soon be possible to include the whole human genome on such a chip and so test all of it at once for possible adverse effects.
[I’m grateful to Mike Anglin for telling me about this term.]
“The most exciting thing about toxicogenomics is that we’re going to start investigating genes we never would have thought of looking at,” says CTL’s Kimber. “That’s where the big surprises — and big benefits — are going to come from.”
Science, May 1999
An interest in new technologies, such as toxicogenomics and the use of computerised systems for prediction of safety, as well as in other scientific advances which can contribute to safety assessment would be advantageous.
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