Thursday April 26, 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

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"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
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  • 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)

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Youth in polluted cities at increased risk of Alzheimer’s

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Climate Trends works on solutions to air pollution, while Co Media Lab is a community media lab.
Pollution can lead to Alzheimer's in youth. Wikimedia Commons

Children and young adults living in polluted megacities are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, a debilitating brain disease characterised by memory loss, a new study has warned.

“Alzheimer’s disease hallmarks start in childhood in polluted environments, and we must implement effective preventative measures early,” said one of the researchers Lilian Calderon-Garciduenas from University of Montana in the US.

Air pollution can trigger Alzheimer’s. Flickr

“It is useless to take reactive actions decades later,” Calderon-Garciduenas said. The findings, published in the Journal of Environmental Research, indicate that Alzheimer’s starts in early childhood, and the disease progression relates to age, pollution exposure and status of Apolipoprotein E (APOE 4), a well-known genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s. The researchers studied 203 autopsies of Mexico City residents in the US ranging in age from 11 months to 40 years.

Metropolitan Mexico City is home to 24 million people exposed daily to concentrations of fine particulate matter and ozone above US Environmental Protection Agency standards. The researchers tracked two abnormal proteins that indicate development of Alzheimer’s, and they detected the early stages of the disease in babies less than a year old.

Also Read: Your daily cup of coffee can worsen Alzheimer’s symptoms

The scientists found heightened levels of the two abnormal proteins — hyperphosphorylated tau and beta amyloid — in the brains of young urbanites with lifetime exposures to fine-particulate-matter pollution (PM2.5).

They also tracked APOE 4 as well as lifetime cumulative exposure to unhealthy levels of PM2.5 — particles which are at least 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair and frequently cause the haze over urban areas. The researchers found hallmarks of the disease among 99.5 percent of the autopsies they examined in Mexico City. In addition, the findings showed that APOE 4 carriers had a higher risk of rapid progression of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s can cause depression too. Pixabay

The researchers believe the detrimental effects are caused by tiny pollution particles that enter the brain through the nose, lungs and gastrointestinal tract, and these particles damage all barriers and travel everywhere in the body through the circulatory system.

The authors noted that ambient air pollution is a key modifiable risk for millions of people across the globe. “Neuroprotection measures ought to start very early, including the prenatal period and childhood,” Calderon-Garciduenas said. “Defining pediatric environmental, nutritional, metabolic and genetic risk-factor interactions are key to preventing Alzheimer’s disease,” she added. IANS