Diesel Exhaust Fumes May Harm Genes

A new study has found that exposure of air pollution caused by diesel exhaust fumes just for two hours can lead to fundamental health-related changes in the genes by switching some genes on or switching others off.

The researchers stated, “This study shows how vulnerable our genetic machinery can be to air pollution and that changes are taking place even if there are no obvious symptoms.” Such exposure affected the chemical “coating” called methylation that attaches to many parts of a person’s DNA, the findings showed.

According to Dr. Chris Carlsten, an associate professor in the Division of Respiratory Medicine, said, “The DNA, the building blocks of our genetics and our body, has an added chemical modification.”

Methylation is one of several mechanisms for controlling gene expression.

“Any time you can show something happens that quickly, it means you can probably reverse it – either through a therapy, a change in environment, or even diet,” said Carlsten.

The researchers have exposed volunteers to diluted and aged exhaust fumes that are about equal to the air quality along a Beijing highway, or a busy port in British Columbia, for the study.

It finds, “This could lead to accumulated modifications over the life time of a person that properly lead to the diseases that we see due to air pollution.” As per reports, the study results could lead to exhaust fumes being linked to asthma, higher blood stress and other circumstances.

While diesel exhaust caused changes in methylation at about 2,800 different points on people’s DNA, affecting about 400 genes, it led to more methylation in some places. The findings showed that in more cases, it decreased methylation,

The researchers stated that methylation changes on several places in the genome that have a direct bearing on lung health. One of those changes would lead to less production of a protein called GSTP1, which helps “clean up” toxic molecules that disrupt the normal functioning of cells.

The study appeared in the journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology.


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