APR 12, 2020 8:22 AM PDT

Even Brief Exposure to Air Pollution Can Affect Gene Expression

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

It is well-known that when people are exposed to air pollution, they are at greater risk for cancer, respiratory, and heart diseases. Researchers are now interested in learning exactly what air pollution does, such as increasing inflammation or oxidative stress, that leads to this outcome. Several small research studies involving humans and mice have shown that the negative health effects of pollution are accompanied by changes in gene expression. In humans, air pollution levels have been correlated with changes in the activity of genes that have been associated with cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease. Learn more about how air pollution affects the body from the video.

New work by a team of researchers has confirmed these findings and suggested that even brief exposure to air pollution can have a significant impact on gene expression. The resulting physiological changes are probably influencing the likelihood of a multitude of diseases. The findings have been reported in the journal Environment International.

In this study, Associate Professor Yuming Guo at the Monash School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine in Australia and colleagues at Nagasaki University in Japan and Cambridge University in the UK analyzed blood samples that were obtained from 192 pairs of identical twins and 74 non-identical twins. Twins are often a crucial aspect of research studies that seek to determine whether some observed characteristic in humans is due to the effect of genes or the environment. Since identical twins have the same genome, one can act as a kind of control for the other, which helps to illustrate whether a characteristic is due to genes or the environment.

At the time that blood was drawn from the twin participants, air quality measurements were also recorded from stations in Brisbane, where the study was conducted and the participants resided. The level of the main particulate in smoke, PM2.5, and sulfur dioxide, the primary gaseous pollutant, were noted. The expression levels of six genes that are connected to disease processes triggered by pollution (oxidative stress and inflammation) were measured. Over the course of the study, the researchers determined that even low air pollution levels in Brisbane triggered changes in the expression of genes that have been linked to negative health effects.

"This is the first evidence as to how exactly exposure to [a] low level of air pollution actually alters our gene expression which in turn impacts our health," said Associate Professor Guo. "Combined with the global consequences of COVID-19 and its impact on respiratory health there is even a greater need to be conscious of limiting our exposure to air pollution."

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Monash University, Environment International

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 13, 2021
Microbiology
The Gut Microbiome Was More Diverse in Ancient People
MAY 13, 2021
The Gut Microbiome Was More Diverse in Ancient People
What can we learn from a specimen of ancient poo? A lot, it turns out. Scientists have now reported their findings from ...
MAY 20, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
The rhAmpSeq™ CRISPR Analysis System for next-generation sequencing analysis of CRISPR edits
MAY 20, 2021
The rhAmpSeq™ CRISPR Analysis System for next-generation sequencing analysis of CRISPR edits
CRISPR genome editing generates double-stranded breaks (DSBs) in genomic DNA and is a targeted method by which to achiev ...
MAY 24, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Lead Exposure Can Lead to Epigenetic Changes
MAY 24, 2021
Lead Exposure Can Lead to Epigenetic Changes
In Brazil, automotive battery plants use lead to make their products, exposing workers to the element, which is abundant ...
JUN 15, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
DNA May Soon Become a Digital Storage Device
JUN 15, 2021
DNA May Soon Become a Digital Storage Device
We live in an age of information and data, and more is being generated every day. It's estimated that there are about te ...
JUN 21, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Scientists Create Viral Vectors That Can Be Activated With Light
JUN 21, 2021
Scientists Create Viral Vectors That Can Be Activated With Light
Most people think of viruses as nasty pathogens that can infect cells. Though it's taken time and testing, researche ...
JUL 22, 2021
Microbiology
Researchers Discover 15,000-Year-Old Viruses in Glacial Ice
JUL 22, 2021
Researchers Discover 15,000-Year-Old Viruses in Glacial Ice
As the climate warms and long-frozen surfaces begin to thaw, scientists are finding ancient animals and organisms. In so ...
Loading Comments...