UCI to lead first public health study exploring link between air pollution and heart disease

December 09, 2003

Irvine, Calif., Dec. 9, 2003 - A UC Irvine epidemiologist will lead the nation's first public health study to understand how ultrafine particles in urban air pollution contribute to coronary heart disease in the elderly.

Supported by a $3-million National Institutes of Health grant, Dr. Ralph Delfino, an associate professor in the College of Medicine, and colleagues from UCI and the University of Southern California will monitor elderly individuals to see how daily pollution levels impact their ailments. These seniors will have existing heart disease and live in Southern California retirement homes impacted by high regional or local air pollution.

"Heart disease is the leading cause of hospitalization and death among the elderly," Delfino said. "If we can learn more about the relationship between heart disease and the ultrafine particles in smog, it could lead to air pollution regulations that better protect our health, improved medical treatment and longer and healthier lives for our senior population."

The researchers anticipate finding an association between the amount of ultrafine particles in the air and the severity of heart disease in the study subjects. Although very small in size, these particles carry condensed toxic elements that in numerous laboratory studies were found to trigger lung and heart inflammation and a host of cardiac ailments, such as blood clots, hardening of the arteries and heart disease.

Ultrafine particles are produced primarily by engine combustion, with diesel engine exhaust containing a particularly high concentration. Because they are so small (less than 100 nanometers in size), they are easily absorbed into blood stream and individual cells.

Currently, local and federal agencies do not regulate ultrafine particle emissions.

Delfino and his colleagues will base one part of the study in the Los Angeles area, near the traffic sources of ultrafine particles, and another in the Riverside area, where these particles undergo chemical reactions that may add to their toxicity.

Over a seven-month period, the researchers periodically will monitor certain markers of cardiac disease, such as changes in electrocardiographic readings, blood pressure and levels of inflammatory and clotting factors in the blood, to see how results of these tests change in comparison to ultrafine particle levels measured concurrently. Study subjects also will be intensely examined during the high-smog summer months and between October and January, when ultrafine particle levels can be even higher.

"We anticipate that when the subjects in our study are exposed to increased amounts of ultrafine particles, it will result in raised levels of the cardiac disease markers we will be measuring, which is a signal that a person's ailments are possibly worsening," said Delfino, who in another study is tracing particle effects on children with asthma.

"Because of its traffic and smog levels, Southern California is a perfect place to conduct this study," Delfino added. "But it shouldn't be seen as relevant only to this area. The health impacts of fossil fuel combustion are found nearly everywhere in this country, and you'll be exposed to these pollutants one way or another. This is a national health issue."

Participating in the study from UCI are cardiologists Dr. John Longhurst and Dr. Shaista Malik, toxicologist Michael Kleinman, biomedical engineer Dr. Steven George, psychosocial stress researcher Larry Jamner and biostatistician Christine McLaren. Participating from USC are environmental scientists Philip Fine and Constantinos Sioutas, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and deputy director of the Southern California Particle Center and Supersite.
-end-
The University of California, Irvine is a top-ranked public university dedicated to the principles of research, scholarship and community. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 24,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 1,300 faculty members. The third-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3 billion.

UCI maintains an online directory of faculty available as experts to the media. To access, visit: www.today.uci.edu/experts.

University of California - Irvine

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.