Role of Molecular Biology in Risk Assessment
Exposure to an ever-increasing number of man-made and natural environmental substances poses a health risk for the exposed individuals. To formulate public policy in order to protect the human population from the adverse effects of these agents, society needs first to gain an understanding of the mechanisms by which toxic agents compromise human health. In environmental health studies, the evaluation of risk results from a complex interplay of factors, including not only scientific components, but also socio-economic, ethical, legal, and geographical. As one of these scientific aspects, molecular biology has become an essential tool for the environmental toxicologist, because the rapidly-expanding advances in our understanding of biological processes at the molecular level have made it possible today to analyze problems that twenty years ago we could not even imagine existed. For example, the technology is now available to answer one of the most challenging questions that toxicologists face, namely: Are there genes that contribute to increased resistance (or sensitivity) to toxic environmental agents? Of course, the ultimate goal in this area of risk evaluation is not only to identify these genes, but to develop an understanding of how they function and how they affect human health; this is an eminently feasible goal with our current level of knowledge, given time and adequate resources. As more molecular biologists become attracted to the present challenges of toxicological research, we cannot but expect that many novel advances in molecular biology will be the result of our specific experimental demands, with the consequent opening of unpredictable new frontiers in environmental health research.
KeywordsDifferential Display Myotonic Dystrophy Toxicological Research Environmental Health Research Environmental Health Study
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