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Epidemiological and associative research from humans and animals identifies correlations between the environment and health impacts. The environment-health inter-relationship is effected through an individual's underlying genetic variation and mediated by mechanisms that include the changes to gene regulation that are associated with the diversity of phenotypes we exhibit. However, the causal relationships have yet to be established, in part because the associations are reduced to individual interactions and the combinatorial effects are rarely studied. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that our genomes are highly dynamic; they integrate information across multiple levels (from linear sequence, to structural organisation, to temporal variation) each of which is open to and responds to environmental influence. To unravel the complexities of the genomic basis of human disease, and in particular non-communicable diseases that are also influenced by the environment (e.g., obesity, type II diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, some neurodegenerative diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis) it is imperative that we fully integrate multiple layers of genomic data. Here we review current progress in integrated genomic data analysis, and discuss cases where data integration would lead to significant advances in our ability to predict how the environment may impact on our health. We also outline limitations which should form the basis of future research questions. In so doing, this review will lay the foundations for future research into the impact of the environment on our health.

Original publication




Journal article


Frontiers in genetics

Publication Date





Translational Gastroenterology Unit, Nuffield Department of Experimental Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.