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Ecogenetics: The Fusion of Genetics and the Environment

In my book Experimental Man, I had my complete genome sequenced plus extensive testing of levels of environmental toxins (trace amounts) in my body. I investigated what was known about the interaction of genetics with the environment, and concentrated on DNA markers correlated with genetic sensitivity to environmental toxins like mercury. Check out the Experimental Man website for this:
Experimental Man: Environment

Articles about ecogenetics:

National Geographic
The Pollution Within
A Chemical Autobiography
October, 2006

Discover Magazine
How to Tell If You’re Poisoning Yourself with Fish
March, 2009

In 2012, I cofounded Ecoeos, Inc., a company that is using deep science to investigate genetic variants that convey an enhanced genetic sensitivity to environmental toxins. The first product being developed is a test for children to characterize a suite of genetic markers that identify genetic sensitivity to low levels of exposure to mercury. Check out the website we have developed:

(Login: ecoeco Password: eco 14)
Note that this is a prototype site that is not set up to take actual orders.

Sample of MercuryWise report and action plan
(Login: ecoeco Password: eco14)

Study that is the basis of the MercuryWise test:


Pradeep Babu Sadasivan Pillai, MD, Consulting Research Scientist, Ecoeos,Inc.
James Woods, Ph.D., Research Professor Emeritus, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington (Toxicologist)
W. James Gauderman, Ph.D., Professor of Preventive Medicine, Director, Division of Biostatistics, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine
Evangelos Hytopoulos, Consulting Statistician, Ecoeos, Inc. Gregory Stock, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Founder, Ecoeos,Inc.


Ecoeos researchers and collaborators have found clear evidence  for substantially heightened vulnerability to mercury exposure (mercury sensitivity) among children with genetic variants at key loci  in  five  genes.  The findings were derived from follow-on research on a 7-year randomized trial (the   Casa  Pia  Study )  on  508  school  children  in  Lisbon,  Portugal.  In the original study, half of  the  children  (all  between  the  ages  of  8  and  17},  were  provided  with  dental  care  that  included  amalgam  fillings,  which are 50% mercury, and half were provided with composite fillings, which contain no mercury. The study tracked the neural development of the two cohorts using a battery of standard neurobehavioral tests conducted annually.  Urinary mercury levels were also measured annually. In this original study genetic influences were not investigated.  Researchers reported that no statistically significant differences were found between the test scores in the two groups (Rouen, et al, 2006). The follow-on study, launched after the original results were published, looked  for  possible  genetic  potentiation  of  mercury  toxicity  in  332  of  the  original  subjects  –  those  available  to  be  genotyped  Z  and  examined  associations  between  their  test  performances  and  the  status  of  candidate  variants  at  22  genetic  loci.  This study  found  strong,  statistically  significant  deleterious  effects  associated  with  specific  variants  in  five genes: CPOX, COMT, MTIM, MT2A, and TDO2. Substantial neurobehavioral deficits (diminutions in excess of 1 standard deviation in mean  performance)  across  multiple  neurobehavioral  domains  including  attention,  long-term  memory,  visual  processing  and  fine  motor  control  were  found  in  children  with  mercury  sensitivity  who  had  modest  levels  of  creatinine-adjusted  urinary  mercury  (<5  ug/g). Gender differences were found, boys being far more strongly affected than girls. Approximately one in five  boys  had  multiple  genetic-risk  markers  and  was  highly  mercury  sensitive.  Boys  with  high  mercury  sensitivity  and  elevated  urinary  mercury  levels,  even  though  these  levels  were  well  below  what is considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO threshold = 50 ug/g), showed deficits  in  multiple  performance  measures  including  on  average  a  developmental  deficit  at  age  17  of  three  to  five  years  in  fine  motor  control  and  attention,  meaning  that  these  children  were  performing  on  average at the level of  12 to 14-year olds.

The Casa  Pia  Study  was  funded  by  the  Dental  and  Craniofacial  Research  Institute  at  the  National  Institutes  of  Health. The  original study  (1998Z2005)  was  conducted  by  a  team  led  by  researchers  from  the  Department  of  Dental  Health  Services  at  the  University  of  Washington  in  conjunction  with  the  University of Lisbon Dental School. The later genetic study (2010Z2013) was initiated by James Woods, PhD,  of  the  Department  of  Environmental  and  Occupation  Sciences  at  the  University  of  Washington;  the analysis was done by Woods in collaboration with Ecoeos, Inc. 

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