Exposure to Environmental Pollutants and Their Association with Biomarkers of Aging: A Multipollutant Approach
Environmental Science & Technology

Researchers have linked some environmental pollutants with diseases, a decreased life span and signs of premature aging, such as wrinkles and age spots. But can accelerated aging be detected at the cellular level in healthy people exposed to pollutants? Now, researchers in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technologyreport that although pollutant exposure can affect two hallmarks of aging in people (mitochondrial DNA content and telomere length), the results are not so clear-cut.

Some environmental pollutants cause mitochondria –– the cell’s powerhouses –– to release more reactive oxygen species, which can damage the DNA in these organelles and lead to inflammation. Telomeres, the DNA-protein caps on the ends of chromosomes that allow them to continue dividing, are also sensitive to environmental stress. Shorter telomeres are a hallmark of aging, whereas abnormally long telomeres are often seen in cancer cells. Michelle Plusquin of Hasselt University and colleagues wondered if individual pollutants, or combinations of them, could affect mitochondrial DNA content or telomere length in people.

 

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