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The "omics" era applied to society: the impact of formal and informal labor on the exposome of workers with an emphasis on metabolomics, transcriptomics and lipidomics


The health of an individual depends on factors intrinsic to their DNA, but also on environmental factors (Vrijheid et al., 2014; Miller and Jones, 2014). Although the genome is the "technical blueprint of the individual", its analysis, together with the metabolome, transcriptome, lipidome and other "omes", made possible by the advances of the "omics" technologies, such as metabolomics, transcriptomics and lipidomics, allows assessment of the physiology and health status of individuals (Wild, 2012; Vineis et al., 2013; Cisek et al., 2016; Escher et al., 2017). Moreover, under the exposome approach, a concept coined by Wild (2005), as a group of exposures to which humans can be submitted during their lifetime, albeit endogenous (e.g. inflammation, infection, etc.) or exogenous (e.g. pollution, radiation, diet, medications, chemical products etc.), the study of the impact of environmental/occupational exposures on the "omes" can help to elucidate the causes of chronic diseases whose etiology remains unclear or lead to the discovery of potential biomarkers of early exposure that can help in disease prevention, with major impact on public health in the future (Rappaport, 2012; Li-Pook-Than and Snyder, 2013; Vrijheid, 2014; Lochhead et al., 2015). Considering these concepts, the proposal of this research group encompasses two populations: (1) from Limeira, São Paulo state, a center for the production of jewelry and fashion jewelry characterized by an informal and home-working profile; and (2) Volta Redonda, Rio de Janeiro state, specifically from the Volta Grande IV condominium, a population comprising formal workers from the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional - National Steel Company (CSN) - populations at risk of chemical exposure to both organic and inorganic chemical compounds. Taking into account both these scenarios, the overall objective of this proposal is to describe the metabolome, transcriptome and lipidome of the formal and informal workers of the two regions and discuss diseases or risk of diseases associated with metabolites, transcripts and lipids found, in comparison to groups of individuals living in the same districts not engaged in the production processes cited (home jewelry crafts, in Limeira or the steel works at CSN, in Volta Redonda). The specific objectives are: a) to analyze metabolites, lipids and transcripts in biological samples (plasma and whole blood) of individuals living in Limeira, São Paulo state, and Volta Redonda, Rio de Janeiro state; b) to study biological routes/systems altered by occupational exposure to the chemical elements present in the production process; c) to investigate possible biomarkers of exposure/effect for the chemical compounds present in the production processes or related to their occupational activities; and 4) to explore possible associations between environmental factors, biological profiles and diseases reported by the study population. Metabolomics, transcriptomics and lipidomics, as well as determination of total metals, are the techniques to be employed in this study. The epidemiological approach for accessing the population shall be the snowball technique. Success criteria include collection of biological samples from 100 individuals (50 from Limeira and 50 from Volta Redonda); analyses performed; data analyzed and information interpreted; reports delivered to the participating population with medical referral, when necessary; presentation of the results at international events and publication in high-impact factor journals. Another highly relevant success criterion, from our perspective, is the consolidation of this network in partnership with groups from Europe, mainly HEALS (Health and Environment-wide Associations based on Large population Surveys) for the study of the exposome in Brazil. (AU)

Articles published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the research grant: