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Genomics and Toxic Sustances: Part I--Toxicogenomics

January 2003

Citation: 33 ELR 10071

Issue: 1

Author: Gary E. Marchant

Advances in genomics, the study of the structure and function of our genetic make-up, are fundamentally transforming toxicology, the science of how toxic substances affect our bodies. These changes will inevitably spill over into the legal regimes that frequently rely on toxicological data, including toxic torts and environmental regulation.1 Genomic data, and the techniques with which they are generated, have the potential to make toxic torts and environmental regulation more effective, efficient, and fair, but at the same time will present many new doctrinal, evidentiary, and ethical challenges.

Two key applications of genomic data for toxic torts and environmental regulation are2: (i) the study of the expression of genes in cells or tissues in response to exposure to a toxicant, known as toxicogenomics; and (ii) the identification of genetic variations affecting susceptibility to toxic agents, sometimes referred to as toxicogenetics.3 This Article will address the application of toxicogenomics to toxic torts and environmental regulation; a subsequent companion article will address toxicogenetic applications. After first describing the scientific background of toxicogenomics, this Article explores some potential uses of toxicogenomic data in regulation and litigation involving toxic substances.

The author is Associate Professor and Executive Director, Center for the Study of Law, Science, and Technology, Arizona State University College of Law. J.D. (1990); M.P.P. (1990); Ph.D. (Genetics) (1986). Portions of this Article were presented at a National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences conference on Toxicogenomics in December 2001, and at presentations in 2002 to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Environmental Law Institute, and faculty colloquia at Seton Hall Law School and Arizona State University College of Law. The author appreciates the many helpful comments and questions from the participants at those events, including some particularly valuable suggestions from Andrew Askland and Michael Saks.

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