Despite substantial experimental and epidemiological research, there is limited knowledge of the uranium-induce health effects after chronic low-dose exposures in humans. Biological markers can objectively characterize pathological processes or environmental responses to uranium and confounding agents. The integration of such biological markers into a molecular epidemiological study would be a useful approach to improve and refine estimations of uranium-induced health risks. To initiate such a study, Concerted Uranium Research in Europe (CURE) was established, and involves biologists, epidemiologists and dosimetrists. The aims of the biological work package of CURE were: 1. To identify biomarkers and biological specimens relevant to uranium exposure; 2. To define standard operating procedures (SOPs); and 3. To set up a common protocol (logistic, questionnaire, ethical aspects) to perform a large-scale molecular epidemiologic study in uranium-exposed cohorts. An intensive literature review was performed and led to the identification of biomarkers related to: 1. retention organs (lungs, kidneys and bone); 2. other systems/organs with suspected effects (cardiovascular system, central nervous system and lympho-hematopoietic system); 3. target molecules (DNA damage, genomic instability); and 4. high-throughput methods for the identification of new biomarkers. To obtain high-quality biological materials, SOPs were established for the sampling and storage of different biospecimens. A questionnaire was developed to assess potential confounding factors. The proposed strategy can be adapted to other internal exposures and should improve the characterization of the biological and health effects that are relevant for risk assessment.
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Vol. 187 • No. 1