A study conducted by Andrea Baccarelli, an assistant professor of applied biotechnology at the university of Milan, concluded that inhalation of certain particulates can cause reprogramming of DNA. According to him, air pollutants require little time to root changes in gene programming. A gene is a segment of nucleic acid that embraces the information needed to build and maintain cells and pass on the genetic traits to offspring. Such unwanted gene reprogramming can lead to increased percentage in cancer and other related diseases.
A study conducted on 63 foundry workers near Milan, Italy showed that the particulate matter so produced via steel manufacturing process had affected four genes within a period of three days. Researchers had collected blood samples from the workers on the morning of the first day and again after three days. On studying the blood sample, they found out that four genes, which went under change, were associated with tumor suppression gene. According to researchers, gene change may have been caused by DNA methylation, a chemical modification of DNA, which involves the addition of methyl group. DNA methylation has also been found in blood and tissue samples of patients suffering from lung cancer.
As DNA methylation is reversible, it is being used as an answer to cancer, by designing interventions that could program gene back to normal and lessen the increased health risks of air pollutants.
Ill effects of particulates:
Particulate inhalation mainly results in asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular tissues and premature death. Main genetic cause of lung cancer is mutation of tumor suppression gene, which has the main hand in protecting a cell from one-step on the path to cancer. When this gene is reprogrammed it losses its function thereby, pushing a cell towards cancer.
In order to hold back the health effects of particulate matter various governments have set maximum standards. United States environmental Protection Agency has set standards for PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations in urban air. Though, U.S. and Europe have become cleaner with respect to particulate matter but much of the developing countries still exceed standards by wide margins.
Via: National Geographic