Wednesday July 18, 2018

How exposure to air pollution in womb may shorten lifespan

Babies' exposure to high levels of air pollution in the womb may lead to a type of DNA damage, typically associated with ageing, called telomere shortening, warned a study

0
//
55
"An individual's telomere length at birth is known to influence their risk for disease decades later during adulthood," said Deliang Tang, Professor at the Columbia University in the US. Pixabay
Republish
Reprint
  • Babies’ exposure to high levels of air pollution may result in shorten lifespan
  • The team analysed telomere length in the umbilical cord blood of 255 newborns, born both before and after the closure of a coal-burning power plant in Tongliang, China
  • The study was published in journal Environment International

Babies’ exposure to high levels of air pollution in the womb may lead to a type of DNA damage, typically associated with ageing, called telomere shortening, warned a study.

Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes. Telomere shortening is the main cause of age-related breakdown of our cells and has been linked with cancer and heart disease, cognitive decline, ageing, as well as premature death.

Babies exposed to air pollution in utero, showed higher levels of PAH-DNA cord adducts -- a biomarker for exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a toxic component of air pollution from coal plants. Pixabay
Babies exposed to air pollution in utero, showed higher levels of PAH-DNA cord adducts — a biomarker for exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a toxic component of air pollution from coal plants. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Air Pollution expected to Cause 60,000 Deaths in 2030 and 2,60,000 in 2100 Globally: Study

Elevated levels of these adducts in cord blood were associated with shorter telomeres as well as with lower levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) — a protein involved in neuronal grown.

“An individual’s telomere length at birth is known to influence their risk for disease decades later during adulthood,” said Deliang Tang, Professor at the Columbia University in the US.

ALSO READ: Air pollution affecting India’s glistening Golden Temple

In May 2004, high levels of air pollution in Tongliang prompted the government to shut down the local coal-burning power plant to improve community health. Pixabay
In May 2004, high levels of air pollution in Tongliang prompted the government to shut down the local coal-burning power plant to improve community health. Pixabay

For the study, which appeared in the journal Environment International, the team analysed telomere length in the umbilical cord blood of 255 newborns, born both before and after the closure of a coal-burning power plant in Tongliang, China in 2004.

“Further follow-up is needed to assess the role telomere length plays in health outcomes in the context of early life exposure to air pollution,” Tang said. (IANS)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2018 NewsGram

Next Story

Plastics Can Be Eaten By Enzymes And Reduce Pollution

The enzyme is able to digest polyethylene terephthalate

0
Packs of flattened polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) bottles are carried into a depot before being pulverized as part of a recycling process at Tokyo PET Bottle Recycle Co. in Tokyo, Aug. 13, 2002. Researchers in Britain and the United States have engineered an enzyme that breaks down such plastics.
Packs of flattened polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) bottles are carried into a depot before being pulverized as part of a recycling process at Tokyo PET Bottle Recycle Co. in Tokyo, Aug. 13, 2002. Researchers in Britain and the United States have engineered an enzyme that breaks down such plastics. VOA

Scientists in Britain and the United States say they have engineered a plastic-eating enzyme that could help in the fight against pollution.

The enzyme is able to digest polyethylene terephthalate, or PET — a form of plastic patented in the 1940s and now used in millions of tons of plastic bottles. PET plastics can persist for hundreds of years in the environment and currently pollute large areas of land and sea worldwide.

Researchers from Britain’s University of Portsmouth and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory made the discovery while examining the structure of a natural enzyme thought to have evolved in a waste-recycling center in Japan.

Finding that this enzyme was helping a bacteria to break down, or digest, PET plastic, the researchers decided to “tweak” its structure by adding some amino acids, said John McGeehan, a professor at Portsmouth who co-led the work.

This led to a serendipitous change in the enzyme’s actions — allowing its plastic-eating abilities to work faster.

“We’ve made an improved version of the enzyme better than the natural one already,” McGeehan told Reuters in an interview.

“That’s really exciting because that means that there’s potential to optimize the enzyme even further.”

The team, whose finding was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, is now working on improving the enzyme further to see if it could be capable of breaking down PET plastics on an industrial scale.

Plastic pollution
Plastic pollution, Pixabay

“It’s well within the possibility that in the coming years we will see an industrially viable process to turn PET, and potentially other [plastics], back into their original building blocks so that they can be sustainably recycled,” McGeehan said.

‘Strong potential’

Independent scientists not directly involved with the research said it was exciting, but cautioned that the enzyme’s development as a potential solution for pollution was still at an early stage.

“Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable and can be produced in large amounts by microorganisms,” said Oliver Jones, a Melbourne University chemistry expert. “There is strong potential to use enzyme technology to help with society’s growing waste problem by breaking down some of the most commonly used plastics.”

Douglas Kell, a professor of bioanalytical science at Manchester University, said further rounds of work “should be expected to improve the enzyme yet further.”

Also read: Ayushmann Khurana speaks against plastic pollution

“All told, this advance brings the goal of sustainably recyclable polymers significantly closer,” he added. (VOA)