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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2008, 5(5), 318-320; doi:10.3390/ijerph5050318
- Nanoscience, Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology: In recent years, nanoscience and nanotechnology have gained a great deal of public interest due to the needs and applications of nanomaterials in almost all areas of human endeavors including industry, agriculture, business, medicine and public health. Hence, nanoscience and nanotechnology rank among the most prominent and rapidly emerging fields that have provided opportunities to individuals with various academic backgrounds (chemists, biologists, physicist, material scientists, engineers, medical specialists and toxicologists) and scientific expertise to understand things on the nanoscale. While there have been significant advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology, there have been concerns that the wide production and utilization of nanomaterials is rapidly overtaking efforts to evaluate their toxicity to humans and the environment. To date, very few studies have focused on the evaluation of the impact of nanomaterials on human health. Limited toxicological data indicate that nanomaterials exposure poses a potential risk to biological systems. Symposium presentations focused on the toxicological and health effects of nanomaterials including single and multiwalled carbon nanotudes, and quantum dots, as well as on the application of nanomaterials in biotechnology.
- New Frontiers in Environmental Health Research: The causes of most human diseases have been attributed to the complex interactions between genetic factors and environmental exposures. Hence, control and prevention measures highly rely on the understanding of the cause and effect relationships between these factors and disease development. In recent years, new areas of research such as toxicogenomics, proteomics, and functional genomics have emerged, with the aim of understanding molecular mechanisms of health and disease. Also, the recent advances in the molecular biology of the cell cycle regulation have given new life to our understanding of cancer in particular, and the idea that defects of regulation in cancer cells may partially explain successes that have been achieved in cancer chemotherapy. Specific areas of symposium research presentations included gene expression studies, proteomics, gene-environment interactions, functional genomics, biomarkers of effect, sensitivity and effect, signal transduction and gene activation; and molecular targets of disease chemotherapy.
- Environmental Toxicology and Health Risk Assessment: Growing public awareness of the potential risk to humans from toxic chemicals in the environment has generated demand for new and improved methods for toxicity assessment and rational means for estimating health risk. Many environmental agents such as metal ions, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides/herbicides, UV-light, food additives, and viruses are known to induce various types of illnesses including cancer in humans. Several symposium presentations dealt with research elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which these environmental agents induce toxicity, mutagenesis, and carcinogenesis, as well as research on hazard assessment of exposure to physical, chemical and biological agents; dose-response evaluation and model development; exposure assessment analysis; and health risk characterization; and management.
- Emerging Topics in Computational Biology, and Environmental Modeling: Using of computational methods and procedures to investigate environmental and biological phenomena has made remarkable progresses. This field includes analysis of human genome data, prediction of DNA and protein structure and function, design of biomaterials and therapeutic agents, studies into small molecule-biomacromolecule interactions, and other related computational method development. Therefore, several symposium presentations dealt with the computational analysis of the physical and chemical properties of several environmental compounds, as well as on quantitative structure activity relationship (QSAR) studies for developing predictive toxicology models associated with exposure to these compounds.
- Health Disparities and Environmental Security: In recent years health disparities and biological and chemical terrorism have emerged as major issues in public safety and homeland security. With recent advances in laboratory technologies, it is often possible to measure specific genetic variations as risk factors for specific types of disease. Equally important is the evaluation of the role of modifier factors such as environmental exposures or other genes that may exacerbate the genetic risk leading to differences in disease susceptibility among individuals. Since the events of September 11, 2001 regarding the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the subsequent anthrax attacks on several people, our collective thinking with regard to our vulnerability to terrorism has completely changed. The specific areas of research presentations included the following: health disparities and cancer; health disparities and heart disease; health disparities and infectious diseases; and bioterrorism/chemical terrorism.
- Medical Geology and Human Health: Recent concerns over health-related issues arising from exposure to environmental substances have raised substantial interest in a new field termed “medical geology”. In fact, naturally occurring toxic metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury are now known to cause serious public health problems in several areas of the world. Likewise, the geographical distributions of several infectious diseases such as malaria, meningitis, and schistosomiasis, have been linked to intrinsic climatic and environmental factors. Research on this topic dealt with disease ecology, toxicology, pathology and/or epidemiology with regard to the emerging subject of medical geology.
- Natural Resources Damage Assessment and Management: Several environmental influences including natural and anthropogenic factors have been linked to ecosystem vulnerability. Monitoring and assessment data are therefore needed for science-based decision-making with regard to environmental management. Papers for presentation on this topic included those related to: a) conceptual modeling for ecological risk assessment, b) assessment of the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of specific ecosystems, c) applications of GIS and remote sensing technology to environmental assessment and management, and d) bioindicators for environmental management.
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