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NewGeneris is an Integrated Project conducted within the European Union's 6th Framework Programme, priority area Food Quality and Safety. Its objective is to investigate the role of prenatal and early-life exposure to genotoxic chemicals present in food and the environment in the development of childhood cancer and immune disorders.

During recent decades there has been an accelerating increase of the incidence of childhood cancers, especially leukemias. A world-wide increase is also observed in the prevalence among children of immune diseases, including asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and atopic eczema/dermatitis.

There may be biological and etiological links between the onset of childhood cancer and immunological disorders. Among such possible links is exposure to genotoxic-carcinogens (i.e. carcinogenic chemicals capable of causing damage to the genetic material of cells) with associated immunotoxic properties, present in the environment, including food. NewGeneris is examining the possible role of exposure to such chemicals during pregnancy in the induction of increased risk of cancer and immune disorders in childhood. The relevance, for such risks, of analogous exposures of the fathers at the time of conception, as well as of the children themselves during their very early lifetime, is also being investigated.

Research approach
The main research tool used is biomarkers, i.e. chemical or cellular components of human fluids or tissues, which reflect exposure to, early effects of, or susceptibility to toxic chemicals. In NewGeneris, biomarkers are measured mostly in samples of maternal and umbilical cord blood collected from groups of mother-child pairs (birth cohorts) and stored in large collections ( biobanks ). Information regarding the dietary exposures of the mothers, the fathers and the children themselves during early life, is extracted from validated questionnaires. The combined analysis of data on exposure, biomarkers and information on the health status of the children as they grow older will be utilised to evaluate the role of early-life exposures in the causation of disease, to identify genetic traits which lead to increased individual susceptibility to disease and to evaluate their public health implications of such findings.

New Generis