1996; C. elegans Sequencing Consortium 1998; Adams et al. 2000). The C. elegans genome was the first metazoan genome sequenced. The mouse and human genomes should be completed in 3 years, perhaps sooner. Out of these efforts, the field of genomics has emerged. It includes the identification of all genes of an organism, all RNA transcripts of those genes, all the rules for the time, place, and conditions of expression of those genes, and the sequence variants within the population of that organism. Proteomics is the study of all the proteins expressed from all RNA transcripts. The promise of genomics and proteomics is great, because all studies of physiological function, developmental change, and evolutionary diversification will draw upon it.

As DNA sequence data from various organisms become available, the need to manage and analyze vast amounts of sequence data will increase. That need has spawned a new field of science called bioinformatics. The ability of scientists to make use of genomic databases will become increasingly important for coordinating developmental biology, developmental toxicology, and genomics.


The project was conducted in two phases. The first phase consisted of a symposium entitled “New Approaches for Assessing the Etiology and Risks of Developmental Abnormalities from Chemical Exposure,” which was held December 11-12, 1995 in Washington, D.C. The proceedings from that symposium were published in Reproductive Toxicology (Kimmel et al. 1997) and were used as background information for the second phase of the project in which a multidisciplinary committee with expertise in developmental biology and developmental toxicology was asked to develop a consensus report (this report) that evaluates recent revolutionary advances in the understanding of normal development and gene-environment interactions and in the technology connected to the Human Genome Project and assesses whether these advances provide opportunities for innovation in developmental toxicology and risk assessment. In its report, the committee attempts to make broad-based interdisciplinary proposals by drawing on information from several fields of science—developmental toxicology, developmental biology, molecular biology, epidemiology, and genetics—all of which impinge on the understanding of the action of developmental toxicants.


This report is organized into eight chapters in addition to this Introduction.

Chapter 2 describes the type and frequency of developmental defects in more detail, the problems of collecting accurate data on defects, and the general understanding of possible intrinsic and extrinsic causes.

Chapter 3 describes the current methods of risk assessment for the evaluation of developmental toxicity and the uncertainties in this assessment that make it

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