In their new book, Dr. Manish Arora and Dr. Paul Curtin of the Mount Sinai Institute for Exposomic Research suggest that a newly proposed component—the biodynamic interface—may better explain how humans interact with their environment
In their new book, Environmental Biodynamics: “A New Science of How the Environment Interacts with Human Health”, Manish Arora, BDS, MPH, PhD, FICD, the Edith J. Baerwald Professor and Vice Chairman of the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health and Paul Curtin, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai are proposing a groundbreaking new way to study the interaction between complex biological systems in the body and the environment. Contributing authors are Austen Curtin, PhD; Christine Austin, PhD, and Alessandro Giuliani, PhD
Their theory suggests the existence of “biodynamic interfaces,” an intermediate entity between the two realms, as opposed to conventional approaches that analyze individual aspects of the interaction between the environment and humans in isolation.
The environment impacts human health in profound ways, yet few theories define the form of the relationship between human physiology and the environment. The Mount Sinai scientists believe that such complex systems cannot interact directly, but rather that their interaction requires the formation of an intermediary “interface.” The scientists believe that this theory will lead to the establishment of a new field, “environmental biodynamics,” that will advance the way the environment and human health are studied.
The basis of their theory arose when they compared the time period when autistic children were exposed to toxins to how the children’s brains functioned afterward. At the same time, they found distinct patterns in the intake and metabolism of essential elements and toxins, which were dependent not only on the timing and magnitude of the environmental exposure but also on what was happening within the biological systems of the child’s body.
“These rhythms were driven by the properties of both the biological and environmental systems, but exhibited properties independent of either system,” said Dr. Manish Arora, who also serves as the Director of the Innovation labs at the Institute for Exposomic Research. “They supported the existence of an interface mediating the interaction of biological and environmental systems. The interface itself, which applies constraints and passes information between interacting systems, must be the subject of inquiry because without refocusing the attention on biodynamic interfaces, how the environment impacts health cannot be discerned.”
The study of the interface will allow scientists to better understand how complex systems like the environment and human physiology affect each other. Current methods using plain analysis are incomplete, the scientists say.
“The standard course of inquiry measures some aspect of the environment like lead in the water, and we’d link this to some aspect in human development like IQ,” said Paul Curtin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, an author on the paper. “We’ve learned a lot from environmental health using this approach, but it has its limits.”
This interface also considers social, behavioral, and cultural dynamics to be a particularly fruitful avenue of research. This new theory would allow scientists to assess the interface between income and other processes, including health outcomes using dynamical systems methods. It would also define how human activities could negatively influence the environment and negatively influence their own health outcomes and further environmental impacts over time.
Watch Dr. Arora’s presentation on Environmental Biodynamics and the Exposome: