Friday July 19, 2019

Indian-born scientist attempts treating hearts via urban forests (Science Feature)

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Heart

Indian-born scientist Aruni Bhatnagar is all set to install a $14.50 million “unique urban laboratory” in the US that will study the effect of green plantations on combating cardiovascular diseases. His research interests include cardiovascular effects of environmental pollutants, atherosclerosis, injury from loss of blood to the heart muscle, cardiovascular complications of diabetes and sepsis.

“We think trees might be more effective than statins in combating heart disease,” Bhatnagar told IANS on phone from Louisville, Kentucky.

Bhatnagar’s work has led to the creation of the new field of environmental cardiology.

A Lucknow University graduate with a bio-chemistry doctorate from the Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), also in Lucknow, he is a professor and university scholar with Louisville’s Institute of Molecular Cardiology. He is also a fellow with the American Heart Association.

The Green Heart project involves the University of Louisville, the Nature Conservancy, the Institute for Healthy Air, Land and Soil and other partners that will transform four South Louisville neighbourhoods, home to about 22,000 residents, with 8,000 trees and other plantings.

Bhatnagar said the trees will not be samplings but mature foliage which will make a difference right away. Trees, shrubs and other plants will be placed where they can best soak up lung-damaging air pollution within the study area.

Researchers will track the health of about 700 residents to ascertain cardiovascular response to the plantation.

He said green spaces breathe in their own way, taking up the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide while creating life-sustaining oxygen.

While trees produce volatile organic compounds — a source of ozone pollution — they also absorb ozone and other pollutants and trap especially dangerous tiny particles.

But “nobody has evaluated the specific health effects of planting green spaces”.

He said the effect of plantation on human health where people’s health is monitored before, during and after a major tree plantation drive has not been studied so far.

The health of people who live near the newly planted greenery will be compared to those who live elsewhere in the study area.

“We are hopeful to see changes in a few years,” he said. “It’s like a drug trial, with nature as the drug.”

Bhatnagar said he and his team wanted to test whether giving someone a statin for cardiovascular management is better or worse than giving one green surroundings.

In addition to studying cardiovascular health, researchers also plan to see if there are any changes in crime rates, stress, economics and other social-psycho outcomes.

Some studies suggest trees can help in those areas, too.

He said the Louisville research can be a potential game-changer in fighting heart disease.

“Though heart disease rates have been coming down, the rate has slowed and flattened out in the recent past. That’s why we thought we need to try something different,” he explained.

So far research has identified poor diet and lack of exercise with heart risk. We haven’t studied the impact of the environment in preventing or managing the cardiovascular situation in the urban population. About 70 percent of heart disease is preventable but it still accounts for the largest cause of deaths, Bhatnagar added.(IANS)

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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Flavoured E-Cigarettes Increase the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases

"This study clearly shows that e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes," said Joseph Wu, Professor at Stanford University

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e-cigarette
E-cigarette additives impair lung function: Study.

The flavours used in electronic cigarettes (e-cigarette), especially cinnamon and menthol, can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) when inhaled, says a study. The research team investigated the effect of the e-liquids on endothelial cells that line the interior of blood vessels.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that endothelial cells exposed to the e-liquids or to blood collected from e-cigarette users shortly after vaping, exhibit significantly increased levels of molecules implicated in DNA damage and cell death.

The severity of the damage, aspects of which occur even in the absence of nicotine, varies among popular flavours, said the researchers, adding that cinnamon and menthol were found to be particularly harmful. “This study clearly shows that e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes,” said Joseph Wu, Professor at Stanford University.

E-cigarettes, Smokers
A woman smokes an electronic cigarette in London, Aug. 19, 2015. VOA

For the study, the researchers investigated the effect of six different popular e-liquid flavours — fruit, tobacco, sweet tobacco with caramel and vanilla, sweet butterscotch, cinnamon and menthol — with varied nicotine levels on endothelial cells derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells.

ALSO READ: UK Study: E-Cigarettes help Smokers Quit as Much as Stop-Smoking Aids

“When we exposed the cells to six different flavours of e-liquid with varying levels of nicotine, we saw significant damage. The cells were less viable in culture, and they began to exhibit multiple symptoms of dysfunction,” Wu said.

The researchers found that while several of the liquids were moderately toxic to the endothelial cells, the cinnamon- and menthol-flavoured e-liquids significantly decreased the viability of the cells in culture even in the absence of nicotine. “It’s important for e-cigarette users to realise that these chemicals are circulating within their bodies and affecting their vascular health,” Wu said. (IANS)