A new study has shown that early exposure to environmental factors such as allergens, pollutants, and respiratory viruses might put infants at an increased risk of lung disease in adulthood.
It can lead to pulmonary inflammatory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma later in life.
The researchers from Louisiana State University, New Orleans showed that early exposure to ultrafine pollutants caused genes to produce a number of proteins, including one associated with COPD and steroid-resistant asthma, and also caused proteins to misfold, rendering them dysfunctional.
These genetic defects are linked to structural changes in the lung, airflow limitations, and permanent changes in immune responses.
"It is no surprise that elevations in airborne particulate matter (PM) are associated with increased hospital admissions for respiratory symptoms including asthma exacerbations," said lead researcher Stephania Cormier, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans.
"What has come as a surprise is that early exposure to elevated levels of PM elicits long-term effects on lung function and lung development in children," she added.
The findings were presented at the 11th International Congress on Combustion By-Products and Their Health Effects at the Environmental Protection Agency Conference Centre in Research Triangle Park, N.C.