Surrogate tissue analysis: monitoring toxicant exposure and health status of inaccessible tissues through the analysis of accessible tissues and cells

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Genomics and proteomics have made it possible to define molecular physiology in exquisite detail, when tissues are accessible for sampling. However, many tissues are not accessible for human diagnostic evaluations or experimental studies, creating the need for surrogates that afford insight into exposures and effects in such tissues. Surrogate tissue analysis (STA) incorporating contemporary genomic and proteomic technologies may be useful in determining toxicant exposure and effect, or disease state, in target tissues at the pre- or early clinical stage. We present here a discussion of STA based on presentations given at the Society of Toxicology's 2003 annual meeting's “Innovations in Applied Toxicology” symposium. Speakers at the symposium (Box 1) discussed various potential applications of STA, including the use of peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) as a source of genetic biomarkers to monitor radiation exposure; the use of gene expression analysis of PBLs and hair follicles as a means to monitor the impact of toxicants on inaccessible organs; the characterization of disease-associated gene signatures in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of renal cell carcinoma (RCC) patients; the use of sperm RNA to determine genetic and environmental effects on sperm development in the testis; and the use of serum protein profiles to monitor the development and progression of various cancers. Also discussed are some of the challenges that must be overcome if the utility of STA is to be proven, and thus permit researchers to move this concept from the laboratory to the clinical environment.

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