The exposome: cracking the science about what makes us sick

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This course The exposome will conclude with reflections on what is needed to advance this nascent and transformative field of research.

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About this Course

What are the causes of disease? We know that most diseases result from a combination of genes and environment (nature and nurture). Our genes alone do not determine our fate. For most complex diseases, externalities – environmental factors in the broad sense – are more important.

This includes our living and working environments, diet, social support and stress, pollution, and exposure to infectious agents. Exposome research is about discovering the non-genetic drivers of health and disease.

Derived from the term exposure, the Exposome represents the totality of exposures we face throughout our lifetime. It also represents the biological responses that arise from external exposures.

In this course, 7 researchers from Utrecht University and/or the NWO Gravitation programme Exposome-NL will offer their expertise. We will introduce you to the Exposome concept; why it’s important; how we measure the exposome; and the data sciences steps needed to establish associations with health outcomes.

Exposome research requires transdisciplinary approaches. Therefore, this MOOC will be of interest to current and prospective students and researchers in the fields of public health, environmental health, life sciences, clinical medicine, geosciences, humanities, and social and behavioural sciences.


2 hours to complete

Introduction to the Exposome concept
Welcome! Here you will find general information about the course. The learning objectives, the structure, and the requirements of completion will be presented to you. We will kick off with an introductory lecture by Prof. dr. Roel Vermeulen, a peer discussion assignment and a short quiz.

1 video (Total 7 min), 4 readings, 1 quiz

2 hours to complete

The transformative power of Exposome approaches: using the example of cardiovascular disease reasearch
This week we will learn about how Exposome approaches are changing research into the etiology of cardiovascular diseases.

1 video (Total 6 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz

3 hours to complete

The external Exposome: methodological approaches
This week we will address what the external Exposome is and how we can assess it. We will focus on two exposures: air pollution and the food environment.

2 videos (Total 11 min), 2 readings

2 hours to complete
The internal Exposome: methodological approaches
This week we delve into what the internal Exposome is, with a focus on metabolomics as one important approach.

1 video (Total 5 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz

2 hours to complete

Data science steps for analysing Exposome data
This week we look at the role of data science in Exposome research and the novel data science solutions.

1 video (Total 7 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz

3 hours to complete

Future perspectives & the next generation of studies
In this final week of the course Roel Vermeulen describes which exposome deliverables we can expect in the near future. Some of the experts reflect on challenges and future perspectives in the field of Exposome research.

1 video (Total 5 min), 4 readings, 1 quiz
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