Use of biomarkers in risk assessment
Sommaire de l'article
The systematic development and application of biomarkers in environmental health risk assessment is a relatively new field. At first, the major interest was in biomarkers of exposure, borrowing concepts from pharmacology, then it moved from the external estimates of exposure to internal measures of dose, and ultimately, to markers of target dose. While these markers provide evidence of exposures, they do not provide evidence of that toxicological damage has occurred. For this reason, measurements of DNA adducts and protein adducts are of interest, since they may provide bridges between exposures and disease end-points. In parallel, more quantitative and more sensitive end-points for diseases have been sought. Again, with advancing techniques in cytogenetics, extensive studies were conducted on such markers as chromosomal aberrations, micronuclei and other changes deemed to represent genomic damage. However, these types of end-points are quite unspecific for application to new hazards of uncertain human toxic (carcinogenic) potential. Recent work focusing on more specific early-effect markers such as certain oncogenes and tumour-suppressor genes have substantial promise as shown by work with aflatoxins and vinyl chloride. Such studies have also enhanced mechanistic insight. The advances in molecular genetics have led to an upsurge in interest in most susceptibility factors, and identification of polymorphisms of various enzymes has become possible. Ongoing search for "ultra-high risk" individuals may be fruitful, but probably only relevant to a small segment of potentially exposed populations. Factors associated with a small differential risk, however theoretically or mechanistically important, offer only little practical use.