Environmental exposure to substances in the air, water, dirt, or food can penetrate the human body through the skin, when swallowed, or inhaled.
Many studies have shown a significant connection between exposure to air pollution and diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, but the mechanisms causing these pollutants to facilitate the development of cardiovascular diseases remain under investigation.
In a study that was the first of its kind around the world, the effect of environmental pollution on fat cells in the subcutaneous layer and the membrane of the abdominal cavity was examined. The study was conducted as part of Lior Hassan's doctoral thesis under the guidance of Prof. Victor Novack, the director of the Clinical Research Center at Soroka, and in cooperation with Prof. Assaf Rudich's laboratory at the Biochemistry department and Prof. Itai Kloog's laboratory at the Geography department at Ben-Gurion University,.
The investigators studied several biological signs indicating inflammation in fat tissues collected from patients who underwent abdominal surgery. Innovative models were used to assess the patients' exposure to air pollution during time periods of a week, three-six months, and a year.
The study results showed a connection between air pollution and approximately 40 biomarkers in the human fat tissue during the various time periods, indicating that fat tissue that is exposed to pollution becomes harmful to the body.
Prof. Victor Novack, Director of the Clinical Researches Center at Soroka: "Fat is an endocrine organ that influences all the other systems in the body. With this study we found that fat tissue exposed to air pollution looks like activated tissue, "angry fat", which explains why some people who suffer from excess weight get sick and why others don't. Air pollution plays a role in activating fat, making it more active and therefore causing illness".
This study was recently presented at an international conference on the subject of environmental pollution, the 4th International Congress on Occupational & Environmental Toxicology, and won first place.
As part of a follow-up study currently being performed at the Soroka Medical Center, we are recruiting patients who intend to undergo abdominal surgery through questionnaires that will allow us to perform an optimal assessment of their exposure to air pollution and take patient habits into account during data analysis, such as smoking, physical activity, and time spent outside the home, thus improving and clarifying the possible connection between exposure to air pollution and the effect on human adipose tissue.
Using innovative models to examine the effects of air pollution on cardiovascular diseases and metabolism at the tissue level will allow us to improve our mechanistic understanding of the connection between air pollution, fat tissue biology, and metabolic function.