Air Pollution

Anthropogenic particles are found in dust storms, volcanic ash, and the burning of fossil fuels. Rapidly increasing exposure to anthropogenic particulate pollution (e.g., industrial emissions, combustion-based engines) and man-made engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) represents a major global health concern today. Recent epidemiological studies demonstrate the correlation between ambient particulate air pollution and cardiovascular events. This is a special concern given that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.

We use our expertise in nanoparticles and chemistry to elucidate interactions of cardiovascular health and anthropogenic particulate pollution. We investigated the role of immune and vascular cells in particulate matter air pollution. We hypothesized that inhaled particulate matter could lead to oxidation of lipids in the lung, which causes oxidative stress and inflammation. To test this, we performed quantitative analysis of the different lipid species within lungs of mice exposed to air pollution. We developed mass-spectrometry protocols that would identify oxidation-associated lipids and cholesterols in the lung. We discovered that mice exposed to air pollution express large amounts of oxidized lipids and 7-ketocholesterol, which in turn serve as potent signaling molecules to initiate inflammation. These findings offer new avenues for therapeutic approaches to cardiovascular disease and identify previously unknown, deleterious effects of particulate matter on cardiovascular health.


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