[ASC-media] Media Release: Free radical link suggested between pollution and asthma

Felicity Jensz jensz at unimelb.edu.au
Thu Apr 17 04:27:00 CEST 2008

17 April, 2008
Free radical link suggested between pollution and asthma
Free radical pollution in the air could be a cause of asthma, suggests Ms
Duanne Sigmund, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Free Radical Chemistry
and Biotechnology.
In new research Sigmund and Dr Uta Wille, chemists at the University of
Melbourne, have discovered that the atmospheric nitrate radical irreversibly
damages amino acids, which are the building blocks for proteins in the human
body. This, they suggest, could be a cause of some respiratory diseases.
The nitrate radical is formed by two common atmospheric pollutants ­nitrogen
dioxide, which itself is emitted from car exhausts, and ozone, which is an
important greenhouse gas that is harmful to humans. During the day the sun¹s
UV radiation breaks down the nitrate radicals, but the concentrations rise
as soon as the sun goes down.
³We were very interested to see what these nitrate radicals do to the human
body since we breath them in at night,² says Sigmund.
The duo have found that the nitrate radical reacts with amino acids to form
compounds such as beta-nitrate esters, beta-carbonyl, and aromatic
nitro-compounds. Some of these compounds have been associated with increased
immune response in some respiratory diseases, creating worse symptoms.
³Our results suggest that the nitrate radical could be a real culprit for
respiratory diseases, yet until this study the nitrate radical has been
previously entirely overlooked in regard to causes for diseases such as
asthma², says Sigmund.
³We are now focusing our research on the cell membrane, to see if these
radicals can migrate inside and cause damage to cells,² adds Wille. ³If this
is found to be significant, then health researchers might have to factor in
the role of the nitrate radical when examining other respiratory diseases.²
The duo¹s work will be published in the upcoming issue of the U.K. Royal
Society of Chemistry¹s Chemical Communications.
Media contacts: 
Ms Duanne Sigmund: 0439 762 998
Dr Uta Wille +61 (0)3 8344 2425
More information: www.freeradical.org.au <http://www.freeradical.org.au>
Images available on request from Felicity Jensz,
felicity at freeradical.org.au, 0404804384

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