Researchers have identified factors that cause airway irritation and wheezing after exposure to a common urban air pollutant like ozone.
“We found that it is not the ozone itself that causes the body to wheeze, but the way the lungs respond to ozone,” said Stavros Garantziotis, principal investigator at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and co-author of the study.
“Animals exposed to ozone produced and released high amounts of a sugar known as hyaluronan,” said John Hollingsworth, pulmonologist and assistant professor at Duke University Medical Centre (DUMC), another co-author. “We found hyaluronan to be directly responsible for causing the airways to narrow and become irritated. We believe this may contribute to asthma symptoms in humans as well,” he informed.
Researchers found several proteins which can mediate the hyaluronan effect and can be used as treatment targets. They were also able to block the airway responsiveness by binding the native hyaluronan away, as well as by administering a slightly modified form of hyaluronan, said a DUMC and NIEHS release. There are 4,500 hospital admissions and 900,000 school absences each year attributed to ozone exposure.