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Rats on a road trip reveal pollution-heart disease risk

ook electrocardiogram readings during the trip. Post-exposure recordings began 30 minutes after the trip and continued for five days.

Results showed a maximum drop in heart rate of 40 beats per minute, or a 10 percent decline. The effect persisted for up to 14 hours. In addition, researchers found a 70 percent decrease in the vagosympathetic balance, which is an index of heart rate variability and how the autonomic nervous system responds to change.

Studies such as this one are helping scientists understand why vehicle emissions, even at low levels, cause cardiovascular problems in addition to respiratory problems.

The biggest culprit seems to be the tiniest of air particles, known as ultrafines. They are 60,000 times more numerous than coarse particles found in air pollution. Ultrafines in ambient air are especially harmful because they mix with reactive gases and are taken deep into the lungs as aerosols. At that point, they may interact with the cells that line the blood vessels and enter the circulatory system.

Elder's group is the first to report a link between freshly generated engine emissions and changes in the rat autonomic nervous system, which controls the heart and other key organs.

The investigators are now looking at how on-road aerosols affect blood platelets, which could impact clotting and other essential circulatory functions, Elder said.


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Contact: Leslie Orr
Leslie_Orr@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-5774
University of Rochester Medical Center
31-Jan-2007


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