The exposome is a relatively new paradigm in environmental health sciences, defined as all environmental exposures that we experience throughout our lives. These cumulative exposures can have profound effects on health, but measuring them comprehensively in individuals and linking them to disease is not only a great challenge but a worthwhile investment as well. Following national and international review processes, coordinated by Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab), the National Facility for Exposomics was approved in November 2020 and is now operational from SciLifeLab’s premises in Solna. Hosted by Stockholm University and led by researchers from the Department of Environmental Science, the Facility is unique in Europe and is the first national infrastructure devoted to providing services in high resolution chemical exposomics to all researchers in Sweden.
Jonathan Martin, Professor at the Department of Environmental Science and Scientific Director of the National Facility for Exposomics believes strongly in the importance of establishing such infrastructure as chemical exposomics techniques are maturing and in high demand by the research community interested in measuring the exposome in large prospective health studies.
“Our goal is to increase accessibility of these techniques, and to see these methods leveraged in studies that already incorporate genomics and internal measures of biological response, such as metabolomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and epigenomics. Exposomics opens new windows to observe the interaction of environmental and genomic risk factors which together contribute to disease. This is also why I’m excited to provide exposomics services at SciLifeLab. We are already seeing cross-platform synergies that will benefit our users, ” says Jonathan Martin.
Exploring “molecular dark matter”
The National Facility for Exposomics is integrated at SciLifeLab and operates within the new SciLifeLab Metabolomics Platform together with the Swedish Metabolomics Centre (SMC).
The chemical exposome can be measured by high resolution mass spectrometry techniques, which the researchers from the Department of Environmental Science have significant expertise in.
“Making comprehensive measurements of the chemical exposome in biofluids, air, water and our food is increasingly accessible with modern high resolution mass spectrometry. The greatest challenge is to combine trace-level sensitivity with broad selectivity,” says Stefano Papazian, Researcher at the Department of Environmental Science and Head of the National Facility for Exposomics.
He explains: “compared to the relatively high concentrations (µm – mM) of endogenous small-molecules that are typically targeted with high resolution metabolomics, here we deal with xenobiotics that are present in tiny concentrations (nM – fM). At the same time, we aim to capture a very broad mixture of known pollutants, such as synthetic plasticizers, persistent perfluoroalkyl substances, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and combustion byproducts. Of the hundreds of thousands of chemicals in global commerce today, most have never been monitored in human or environmental samples, so there is much ‘molecular dark matter’ left to explore by our untargeted methods. This is uncharted territory!”
The mission of the National Facility for Exposomics is to provide efficient high-throughput services at the national and European level for the measurement of chemical pollutants in humans, wildlife, air and water. Samples are processed in a specialized positive pressure clean laboratory to minimize background interference, and state-of-the-art ultrahigh resolution Orbitrap mass spectrometers enable comprehensive coverage of polar (dissolve in water) and non-polar (dissolve in lipids) contaminants that spread in the environment and bioaccumulate. The underlying philosophy of operation is that the data processing workflows should be achievable with open science tools in full accordance with FAIR Data Principles introduced in 2016.
“We welcome the National Facility for Exposomics as an essential part of the new SciLifeLab Metabolomics Platform. The complementary expertise in small molecule mass spectrometry will help us reach a deeper understanding of the internal dynamics of xenobiotic exposures that can be integrated into systems biology and biomedicine,” says Anders Nordström, Associate Professor at Umeå University and Director of the Swedish Metabolomics Centre (SMC) and SciLifeLab Metabolomics Platform.
For more information and booking of the Facility please contact:
Stefano Papazian firstname.lastname@example.org