Environmental exposures may damage DNA in as few as three days

May 17, 2009

Exposure to particulate matter has been recognized as a contributing factor to lung cancer development for some time, but a new study indicates inhalation of certain particulates can actually cause some genes to become reprogrammed, affecting both the development and the outcome of cancers and other diseases.

The research will be presented on Sunday, May 17, at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego.

"Recently, changes in gene programming due to a chemical transformation called methylation have been found in the blood and tissues of lung cancer patients," said investigator Andrea Baccarelli, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of applied biotechnology at the University of Milan. "We aimed at investigating whether exposure to particulate matter induced changes in DNA methylation in blood from healthy subjects who were exposed to high levels of particulate matter in a foundry facility."

Researchers enrolled 63 healthy subjects who worked in a foundry near Milan, Italy. Blood DNA samples were collected on the morning of the first day of the work week, and again after three days of work. Comparing these samples revealed that significant changes had occurred in four genes associated with tumor suppression.

"The changes were detectable after only three days of exposure to particulate matter, indicating that need little time to cause gene reprogramming which is potentially associated with disease outcomes," Dr. Baccarelli said.

"As several of the effects of particulate matter in foundries are similar to those found after exposure to ambient air pollution, our results open new hypotheses about how air pollutants modify human health," he added. "The changes in methylation we observed are reversible and some of them are currently being used as targets of ."

Dr. Baccarelli said the study results indicate that early interventions might be designed which would reverse gene programming to normal levels, reducing the health risks of exposure.

"We need to evaluate how the changes in gene reprogramming we observed are related to cancer risk," he said. "Down the road, it will be particularly important not only to show that these changes are associated with increased risk of or other environmentally-induced diseases, but that, if we were able to prevent or revert them, these risks could be eliminated."

Source: American Thoracic Society (news : web)

Explore further: Muscular dystrophy: Repair the muscles, not the genetic defect

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Subway dust may trigger lung damage

Oct 01, 2007

Subway trains produce airborne dust particles that could damage the lungs of commuters, scientists in France are reporting in a study of the Paris subway system scheduled for the October issue of ACS’ Chemical Re ...

Even Low Levels of Air Pollution May Pose Stroke Risk

May 29, 2008

A new study investigated the association between short-term exposure to ambient fine particulate matter and the risk of stroke and found that even low pollutant levels may increase that risk. The study is published in Annals of ...

Recommended for you

Cellular protein may be key to longevity

13 hours ago

Researchers have found that levels of a regulatory protein called ATF4, and the corresponding levels of the molecules whose expression it controls, are elevated in the livers of mice exposed to multiple interventions ...

Gut bacteria tire out T cells

15 hours ago

Leaky intestines may cripple bacteria-fighting immune cells in patients with a rare hereditary disease, according to a study by researchers in Lausanne, Switzerland. The study, published in The Journal of Experimental Me ...

T-bet tackles hepatitis

16 hours ago

A single protein may tip the balance between ridding the body of a dangerous virus and enduring life-long chronic infection, according to a report appearing in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

User comments : 0