Article Source: University of California

Abstract: Children and teens exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution show evidence of a specific type of DNA damage known as telomere shortening according to a new study.

Complete Article:

A new research undertaken by researchers at the University of California has identified a specific type of DNA damage called telomere shortening in children and teens exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution.

According to the preliminary research by John R. Balmes, MD, of University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues, young people with asthma also have evidence of telomere shortening. They say that “Our results suggest that telomere length may have

They say that “Our results suggest that telomere length may have potential for use as a biomarker of DNA damage due to environmental exposures and/or chronic inflammation.”

For the study, they chose 14 children and adolescents living in Fresno, Calif which is the second-most polluted city in the United States. Further, they evaluated the relationship between polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a “ubiquitous” air pollutant released by motor vehicle exhaust; and shortening of telomeres, a type of DNA damage that causes ageing.

Read More: Genetics of childhood ‘overgrowth’ unravelled: Study

On analysing the children exposed to high level of PAHs, the researchers found a linear relationship between exposure to PAHs and telomere length shortening i.e., as the exposure to PAHs increased, the length of telomeres decreased. During the course of study, the children and teens with asthma were exposed to higher PAH level than those without asthma. The association between PAH level and telomere shortening remained significant after adjustment for asthma and other factors (age, sex, and race/ethnicity) related to telomere length.

The study proves previous evidence that air pollution causes oxidative stress, which can damage lipids, proteins, and DNA. Research has also suggested that children may have different telomere shortening regulation than adults, which might make them more vulnerable to the damaging effects of air pollution.

In a statement, Dr Balmes and coauthors conclude,

“Greater knowledge of the impact of air pollution at the molecular level is necessary to design effective interventions and policies.”

They say that, with further research, telomeres could provide a new biomarker to reflect the cellular-level effects of exposure to air pollution. Telomeres might also provide new insights into the understanding how pollution exposure leads to adverse health outcomes.

The research has been published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine with the research paper headed “Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Telomere Length in Children and Adolescents Living in Fresno, CA.

Journal Reference:

Eunice Y. Lee, Jue Lin, Elizabeth M. Noth, S. Katharine Hammond, Kari C. Nadeau, Ellen A. Eisen, John R. Balmes. Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Telomere Length in Children and Adolescents Living in Fresno, CAJournal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2017; 59 (5): 446 DOI: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000996