Particulate Matter Air Pollution Induces Vascular Endothelial Dysfunction

Despite improvements in air quality over the past few decades, research shows that elevated levels of particulate matter air pollution (called PM10) are associated with an increase in cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death. More than 800,000 deaths a year can be attributed to PM10-induced CVD, including life threatening irregular heartbeats, atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke. Diesel exhaust particulates are the major contributor to PM10 in most urban centres worldwide. But there is little evidence to describe how these particulates affect cardiovascular function. The endothelium is a monolayer of cells separating blood from the vascular wall, thus providing physical and biological protection. Importantly, endothelium plays a major role in protecting, activating and controlling cardiovascular function. Activation of endothelium is implicated in the development of atherosclerosis. Ni (Nicola) Bai is investigating whether exposure to diesel exhaust particulates induces dysfunction in these cells, causing the progression of atherosclerosis, and ultimately leading to heart attack and stroke. The findings should help develop interventions that minimize or prevent deaths associated with breathing polluted air.