Derived from the term exposure, the Exposome is the characterization of the non-genetic drivers of health and disease. Interacting with the genome, it defines individual health. It is estimated that the Exposome determines more than 70 percent of the current chronic disease burden. The Exposome comprises aspects of the Built environment (characteristics of where we live); the Social environment (with whom we interact, social networks and income); the Physico-Chemical environment (chemical substances we are exposed to) and the Lifestyle/Food environment (what we eat, how much we exercise). Studying the Exposome requires consideration of: The multitude of interrelated individual exposures: the specific external Exposome, the wider behavioral and social context in which these exposures occur: the general external Exposome, and their impact inside the human body: the internal Exposome.
The success of Exposome research depends largely on the ability to bring together large datasets nested in population studies that can be used to conduct systematic assessments of associations between the Exposome and relevant health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Primary datasets include detailed information on exposure to environmental factors, nutrients, drugs, and physical stressors. Such information is available in various shapes and forms ranging from measurements in biological samples to spatially-resolved maps on multiple stressors that can be linked to health studies.
The National Infrastructure for Exposome Research (NIFER) will be the national access point for Exposome data (either stored in a central location or distributed among centers in the Netherlands). It will consist of two parts: 1) the exposome maps that contain spatially-resolved maps on multiple stressors that will gain insight in exposome patterns on a national level; 2) a reference exposome, the location where individual level exposome estimates (based on a variety of techniques, including molecular and modelling approaches) will be stored and that has the aim to provide insight into variations across the Netherlands in individual exposome profiles to determine when measures are outside the norm. It will be fully integrated with the existing Netherlands Metabolomics Centre.
The infrastructure will be used for research on the impact of the exposome on health. Researchers can access the resource to conduct studies on the exposome for different morbidity and health phenotypes. In addition, national and local governments that want to gain insight into the distribution of exposome related factors in their populations and use such information to create policy will be able to gain access to relevant information via a single portal.
Specifically, NIFER’s exposome maps will contain data on:
-the social environment (e.g. household income, social capital, social networks, cultural norms, cultural capital, and psychological and mental stress);
-the physical-chemical environment (e.g. occupational exposures, surface water contaminations, ground water contamination, drinking water contamination, soil contamination, food contaminants, plastics and plasticizers, persistent organic pollutants, flame retardants, fragrance products, pesticides, pollen/mold/fungus, agricultural activities, outdoor and indoor pollution, odor & noise, ambient light, electromagnetic fields, and temperature/humidity);
-the lifestyle environment (alcohol use, smoking, drug use, diet, sleep behavior, and physical activity); and ecosystems (food outlets, alcohol outlets, built up environment and urban land uses, population density, walkability, and green/blue space);
The reference exposome will contain individual level data on all of the factors mentioned above and in addition, measures of chemicals, nutrients in biological materials.
In addition to hosting the exposome data, NIFER will also provide analytical services to analyze multi-dimensional time-varying exposome information.