May 18, 2009
Air pollution can damage DNA in three days
Inhalation of some particulates can cause some genes to become reprogrammed, affecting the development and outcome of cancers, Italian researchers said.
Dr. Andrea Baccarelli of the University of Milan enrolled 63 healthy subjects who worked in a foundry near Milan. 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 environmental factors need little time to cause gene reprogramming which is potentially associated with disease outcomes, Baccarelli said said in a statement.
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. The changes in DNA methylation we observed are reversible and some of them are currently being used as targets of cancer drugs.
The findings were presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego.