The HUMN and HUMNxL international collaboration projects on human micronucleus assays in lymphocytes and buccal cells-past, present and future

Michael Fenech, Nina Holland, Errol Zeiger, Wushou P. Chang, Sema Burgaz, Philip Thomas, Claudia Bolognesi, Siegfried Knasmueller, Micheline Kirsch-Volders, Stefano Bonassi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

168 Citations (Scopus)


The International Human Micronucleus (HUMN) Project ( was founded in 1997 to coordinate worldwide research efforts aimed at using micronucleus (MN) assays to study DNA damage in human populations. The central aims were to (i) collect databases on baseline MN frequencies and associated methodological, demographic, genetic and exposure variables, (ii) determine those variables that affect MN frequency, (iii) establish standardised protocols for performing assays so that data comparisons can be made more reliably across laboratories and countries and (iv) evaluate the association of MN frequency with disease outcomes both cross-sectionally and prospectively. In the first 10 years of the HUMN project, all of these objectives were achieved successfully for the MN assay using the cytokinesis-block micronucleus (CBMN) assay in human peripheral blood lymphocytes and the findings were published in a series of papers that are among the most highly cited in the field. The CBMN protocol and scoring criteria are now standardised; the effect of age, gender and smoking status have been defined, and it was shown prospectively using a database of almost 7000 subjects that an increased MN frequency in lymphocytes predicts cancer risk. More recently in 2007, the HUMN coordinating group decided to launch an equivalent project focussed on the human MN assay in buccal epithelial cells because it provides a complementary method for measuring MN in a tissue that is easily accessible and does not require tissue culture. This new international project is now known as the human MN assay in exfoliated cells (HUMNxL). At present, a database for >5000 subjects worldwide has been established for the HUMNxL project. The inter-laboratory slide-scoring exercise for the HUMNxL project is at an advanced stage of planning and the analyses of data for methodological, demographic, genetic, lifestyle and exposure variables are at a final stage of completion. Future activities will be aimed at (i) defining the genetic variables that affect MN frequencies, (ii) validation of the various automated scoring systems based on image analysis, flow cytometry and laser scanning cytometry, (iii) standardisation of protocols for scoring micronuclei (MNi) in cells from other tissues, e.g. erythrocyte and nasal cells and (iv) prospective association studies with pregnancy complications, developmental defects, childhood cancers, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-245
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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