Air Pollution Affects our DNA

in #science7 years ago (edited)

New evidence can shows that breathing diesel fumes inappropriately switches genes on and off.

It is well known that air pollution can make it hard to breathe and can increase someone's blood pressure and heart rate. Current research has been able to connect breathing in diesel fumes to the toxic change of inappropriately being able to turn some gene on while turning other off.

A gene is simply a segment of DNA that tells cell of the body what to do and when to do it. Genes are controlled by a chemical switch, known as a methyl group ( a carbon atom that attached to three hydrogen atoms). Methyl groups are able to cause a chemical reaction known as methylation, which result in component of the DNA being affected. The reaction tends to always happen near a gene. The reaction for added methyl groups usually turn some gene off and the opposite will occur when you take a methyl group away. Either change is able to alter health.

The body naturally produces methyl groups, which allows it to turn off genes when their action is no longer needed.

The serious issue is that factors outside the body like air pollutants would inappropriately step in and add methyl groups to the DNA or remove methyl groups. These environmental changes can manipulate our genes, changing when or what they instruct cells to do.

The study of methylation's role in gene action is known as epigenetics and it describes changes that happen outside your DNA. The changes do not have the DNA, however epigenetics may silence a gene by inappropriately turning it off or switch some gene on at the wrong time. Breathing diesel fumes for just two hours is able to have an epigenetic effect.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

They put 16 volunteers, one at a time, in an enclosed booth. The booth was about the size of a small bathroom. Each person remained there for two hours. Half breathed in clean air and the other half breathed air that polluted with diesel fumes. The levels of pollution would be equal to what is reach in the air for along a highway in Beijing, China. These level were also the same with levels that busy ports, rail yards, mines, and other industrial sites around the world.

Afterward, the researchers looked at the blood of the volunteers. They are able to compared the samples that they have taken before the experiment to those that were taken after.

The group that was breathing in diesel had changes to about 2,800 different points on the DNA and those changes affected around 400 genes. No similar changes were seen to those breathing in clean air.

It does take a lot of experimenting to known that air pollutants is harmful for everyone and will decrease the quality of life at the present and especially in the future. At this point we are faced with two road to take the one will fight against air pollutants or the one that does nothing. Our choices matter no matter how we see it. The most important question to ask our selves is which world do we want to live in?

Thank you for reading, commenting, and upvoting

Source:
C. Carlsten et al. Short-term diesel exhaust inhalation in a controlled human crossover study is associated with changes in DNA methylation of circulating mononuclear cells in asthmatics. Particle and Fibre Toxicology, Vol. 11, Dec. 9, 2014, p. 71. doi:10.1186/s12989-014-0071-3.

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