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Better risk assessments through molecular biology
What is risk assessment?
Risk assessment is a process of evaluating information to determine how
likely you think some event is; in the
case of the EPA, the likelihood of public
health or environmental damage. One
example is air pollution regulations:
We ... would take all the information
that’s available on the health effects and
environmental effects of air pollution,
organize it, synthesize it and interpret
it and then provide that information to
decision makers at EPA.
What does molecular biology bring to
It really got a big leap forward with the
Human Genome Project and the invention of robots that can do lab work.
Now you can generate data both faster
and cheaper, and it’s a different kind
of data. Molecular biology is really the
study of the machinery of cells and how
they function, particularly in regard
to these important molecules in the
cell like DNA, genes and proteins. So
with those new ways of looking at the
function and the machinery of the cell,
we’re gaining new insights.
What are some of these insights?
Understanding how chemicals cause
disease, how individuals might differ from one to the other in terms of
What are the challenges to implement-ing a molecular biology approach to
In some ways this new data is not very
intuitively obvious. In the good old
days, you exposed a bunch of rats and
half died and half didn’t, and you could
say, “That doesn’t look good.” Now
what you get is these little bright lights
of readouts of a bunch of genes that
get up-regulated or down-regulated.
And you show that to somebody and
they go “What does that mean?” … It
requires people who understand biology and computers to understand all
these data. s