Environmental Exposures and Lung Aging: Molecular Mechanisms and Implications for Improving Respiratory Health

Curr Environ Health Rep. 2021 Nov 4. doi: 10.1007/s40572-021-00328-2. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Inhaled environmental exposures cause over 12 million deaths per year worldwide. Despite localized efforts to reduce environmental exposures, tobacco smoking and air pollution remain the urgent public health challenges that are contributing to the growing prevalence of respiratory diseases. The purpose of this review is to describe the mechanisms through which inhaled environmental exposures accelerate lung aging and cause overt lung disease.

RECENT FINDINGS: Environmental exposures related to fossil fuel and tobacco combustion and occupational exposures related to silica and coal mining generate oxidative stress and inflammation in the lungs. Sustained oxidative stress causes DNA damage, epigenetic instability, mitochondrial dysfunction, and cell cycle arrest in key progenitor cells in the lung. As a result, critical repair mechanisms are impaired, leading to premature destruction of the lung parenchyma. Inhaled environmental exposures accelerate lung aging by injuring the lungs and damaging the cells responsible for wound healing. Interventions that minimize exposure to noxious antigens are critical to improve lung health, and novel research is required to expand our knowledge of therapies that may slow or prevent premature lung aging.

PMID:34735706 | DOI:10.1007/s40572-021-00328-2

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