Loren E. Wold, PhD, FAHA, principal investigator in the Center for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, has received a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the combined effects of obesity and air pollution on cardiac function. This R01 award totals nearly $1.6 million.
Studies have shown an increase in cardiopulmonary deaths in heavily polluted cities. Dr. Wold’s team has recently shown that long-term exposure to PM2.5, a fine particle related to all forms of combustion and associated with air pollution, causes cardiac systolic and diastolic dysfunction. This contradicts the current belief that heart dysfunction caused by PM2.5 is due to cytokines released from the lung acting on the heart. It is not clear whether the heart is directly affected by PM2.5 or if other mediators are released form the lung and have an affect on the whole heart and isolated heart cells.
Ambient air pollution and obesity are now major contributors to cardiovascular disease in western societies. These two stressors may interact to enhance toxicities and worsen outcomes within the cardiovascular system. The project funded by the R01 is designed to address these potential interactions, at the specific level of cardiac muscle function. The hypothesis is that PM2.5 depresses cardiovascular function via oxidant-mediated pathways in lean animals and will exacerbate obesity-related cardiovascular complications by further enhancing oxidative stress production. With these experiments, Dr. Wold hopes to better define the mechanisms of PM2.5 exposure in the pathogenesis of heart dysfunction associated with obesity.