Research Program Area: Health & Exposure
In animal models, some experimental evidence suggests that early life environmental exposures can alter gene function, leading to adverse health effects that span two or more generations without additional exposure (epigenetic changes). A previous CARB funded study followed rhesus macaques that were exposed in infancy to high levels of wildfire smoke-related fine PM2.5 and compared them to control animals born the next year that were not exposed to high air pollution levels as infants. In adolescence, the exposed animals demonstrated adverse lung and immune function changes compared to control animals. The current project extended the original investigation by evaluating immune and lung function in the smoke-exposed and control females, now adults. Researchers also examined these females' offspring for evidence of epigenetic changes. Investigators addressed three specific aims: 1) to determine whether the altered immune responses previously observed in the smoke-exposed animals persisted, and whether the same response occurred in the animals' unexposed offspring; 2) to determine whether changes in lung health (volume, density, obstruction) previously observed in the smoke-exposed animals persisted, and whether the same response occurred in the animals' unexposed offspring; and 3) to determine whether the offspring of smoke-exposed animals showed similar immune changes as their mothers. Study results showed that, compared to control animals, exposed females exhibited altered cytokine (immune marker) synthesis in blood cells cultured with microbial components. Smoke-exposed animals also showed evidence of lung remodeling. Offspring of exposed animals displayed significant changes in immune markers relative to offspring of control animals. The possibility that environmental exposures can lead to detrimental health effects across generations has significant public health and air quality management implications, as it suggests a mechanism by which chronic disease burden can be maintained long after exposures have declined.
For questions regarding this research project, including available data and progress status, contact: Research Division staff at (916) 445-0753
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