Article Abstract

Air pollution and telomere length: a systematic review of 12,058 subjects

Authors: Bing Zhao, Ha Q. Vo, Fay H. Johnston, Kazuaki Negishi


Background: Over recent decades, adverse effects of ambient air pollution on the cardiovascular system have been clearly demonstrated. However, the underlying mechanisms are not fully elucidated. Air pollution may accelerates biological aging and thereby the susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). Telomeres are tandem repetitive DNA complexes that play a critical role in maintaining chromosome stability. There are, however, heterogeneities among the reported effects of air pollution on telomere. This study sought to evaluate the existing literature on the association between air pollution and telomere length (TL).
Methods: Two reviewers independently searched on electronic databases including PUBMED, EMBASE, SCOPUS, WEB OF SCIENCE and Ovid. The key terms were “air pollution” and “telomere” without language restriction. Articles relating to tobacco smoke were excluded.
Results: A total of 12,058 subjects from 25 articles remained for final review. All were observational studies: 14 cross-sectional, 6 cohort and 5 case-control studies. Nineteen (76%) assessed leukocyte telomere length (LTL) of which 15 found associations between air pollution and shorter TL, 2 with longer TL, 1 had mixed results, and a study of patients with type 2 diabetes found non-significant associations with TL. One found longer TL from saliva. The remaining studies were of placental cells, buccal cells or sperm and all reported shorter TL associated with air pollution. Particulate matter (PM) was investigated in 8 articles, and the remainder assessed black carbon (BC), benzene, lead, cadmium and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). Geographically, 11 studies were conducted in Europe, with 10 in Asia and 4 in North America. While all followed Cawthon’s protocol for TL assessment, discordance in the reporting formats did not allow us to perform a quantitative meta-analysis.
Conclusions: Most of the studies support the association of shorter TL with air pollution. Uniform reporting format would be warranted for future studies to estimate true effect size of air pollution on TL.

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