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Mechanisms linking traffic-related air pollution and atherosclerosis

Campen, Matthew J.a; Lund, Amieb; Rosenfeld, Michaelc

Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine: March 2012 - Volume 18 - Issue 2 - p 155–160
doi: 10.1097/MCP.0b013e32834f210a

Purpose of review Recent discoveries in the field of air pollution toxicology highlight the potential impact of specific sources of air pollution, especially related to roadway emissions, on acute and chronic cardiovascular disease. This review covers potential mechanisms, both in terms of biological pathways and chemical drivers, to explain these observations.

Recent findings Air pollution is associated with chronic progression of cardiovascular disease. Roadway exposures appear to have a strong correlation to these adverse outcomes. Controlled toxicological studies highlight potential interactions between vehicle-source emissions and adverse vascular outcomes. Mechanistically, a role for both innate and adaptive immune responses is emerging, with important recent findings demonstrating that immunomodulatory pattern-recognition receptors such as Toll-like receptor-4 and lectin-like oxidized LDL receptor-1 may play a role in communicating airway exposures to cardiovascular outcomes.

Summary An improved understanding of the sources and mechanisms underlying adverse cardiovascular health outcomes of air pollution would enhance our ability to manage vulnerable populations and establish precise, effective regulatory policies.

aDepartment of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of New Mexico

bToxicology Division, Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, Albuquerque, New Mexico

cDepartment of Pathology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA

Correspondence to Matthew J. Campen, PhD, MSPH, MSC09 5360, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA. Tel: +1 505 925 7778; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.