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Genetic Toxicology-A Brief Guide to Genetic Toxicology

Genetic Toxicology is the study of genetic material or DNA for chemical toxicity. In genetics, genotoxins refers to the action of certain chemical compounds which directly damages the genetic material in a living cell, thus causing mutations that can result in disease. While most agents are not toxic, some are found to be carcinogenic. However, while some are found to be serotonergic and catecholgenic, most of the menotropins are non-carcinogenic, and this includes alachlor, benzene, ethyl, and hydrocyanic acid.

Genetic Toxicology
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Common Diseases Due to Genetic Alteration

Some of the most common genetic toxicology diseases include Fanconi syndrome, glycogen storage disease, cystic fibrosis, albinism, Turner’s syndrome, transposon instability associated infertility, Huntington’s disease, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and leukemia. Each of these conditions has been linked to exposure to chemical substances which are potentially genotoxic.

For example, Fanconi syndrome is caused by defects in the ventricular structure, while cystic fibrosis results from mutations in the genes resulting in the production of too much protein. Malignant melanoma is caused by mutations in the gene causing the production of melanin.

Applications of Genetic Toxicology

Chemical Exposure

Chemical exposure occurs when external stimuli such as air, food, and water are combined with internal signals from the cell such as transcription, copying, and RNA and protein synthesis. When these chemicals interact with cells in the body, it leads to the activation of the genes, producing changes in their functionality.

It is then possible for genetic toxicology to occur. While most external chemical substances do not contribute to genetic toxicology, there are a few which can: cigarette smoke, UV rays from the sun, BPA, and dioxins from canned foods. Chemical exposure or toxicity of the chemical could be find out by the cytotoxicity assay also.

Environmental toxicology

Environmental toxicology can be used to detect and evaluate potential human carcinogens, but there is currently no way to assess for genotoxins or other potential toxic substances. The only method currently available for this purpose is through the use of metabolic and gene-expression methods in vitro.

Gene-expression methods have the ability to identify molecular pathways activated by exposure to chemical compounds and then monitor the response of living organisms under controlled conditions. This method has advanced the capacity to monitor environmental risks and has resulted in a number of useful applications in the field of genetic toxicology.


Gene-expression methods are useful in genetic toxicology because they can be used to identify cells that undergo specific genetic changes during normal development. This allows researchers to monitor the effects of hazardous exposure to specific chemical compounds on cellular levels.

One example of this technology is currently being used in the field of environmental health risk assessment. By identifying cells that experience a specific cellular response to a specific chemical, risk assessors can assess the levels of exposure to various toxic chemicals. Other uses include studying gene function and regulation, which has provided important insights into the causes of inherited illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

General Toxicity

Using new methods for examining genetic differences among species can provide insight into the role of evolution in regard to toxicity. For example, although it is not known whether ancestral humans and chimpanzees experience genetic changes similar to those seen in present-day humans, similarities in the chemical make-up of modern-day polar bear skin can be a strong indication of their ancestral origin.

In this case, we may be able to infer that ancestral polar bears had to contend with much higher levels of exposure to industrial pollutants than do present-day bears. It is also possible that genetic changes occurred in response to increased population densities. If so, then the rate of genetic change would have been exponential and, if such trends continue, could result in increases in toxicity over time.


Another application of genetic toxicology is in the study of endotoxins. Genotoxins are chemicals that are either inherited or developed through interactions between living organisms.

Common endotoxins that are associated with aging include AGEs (adiponectin) and homocysteine, both of which cause a rise in plasma levels of amino acids. Interestingly, recent evidence indicates that even small amounts of endotoxins can produce crosslinks within the DNA, the building blocks of cellular DNA.

DNA Sequencing

Crosslinks can weaken the DNA integrity and can result in the formation of a genetic base called insertion sequence. These sequences often occur in highly conserved DNA locations, suggesting that environmental chemicals can create these crossings.

Some of the most common environmental chemicals suspected of creating genotoxins are pesticides, insecticides, lead, alcohol, and MSG (monosodium glutamate). Although many of the chemical contaminants cannot be detected by non-genetic methods, genetic methods may detect these dangerous chemicals. New methods of molecular biology and DNA analysis are currently being developed to increase the ability to detect these toxic chemicals.

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