Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wildfire smoke exposure may do lifelong harm

RhesusFemales&InfantsKW01 W

A rhesus macaque mother holds her baby at the California National Primate Center at UC Davis. Researchers have studied the impacts of fine-particle pollution on infant monkeys. K. West/Courtesy photo

From page A1 | January 09, 2014 |

Smoky summer days in Davis have led researchers to find for the first time evidence that being exposed in infancy to high levels of fine-particle pollution harms the development of the immune system’s ability to fight disease.

The study also found that exposure negatively impacts the development of normal lung function, according to immunologist Lisa Miller, the head of the respiratory diseases group and associate director of research at the California National Primate Center.

On some days in June and July 2008, smoke from wildfires grew thick “like fog in the wintertime,” Miller said. Levels of PM2.5 — inhalable particles smaller than 2.5 microns — climbed to 50 to 60 micrograms per cubic meter, far beyond the federal standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

That smoke rolled into Davis during the season when many rhesus macaque monkeys are born in the outdoor corrals at the Primate Center, located west of the city.

Backed by a $268,029 Air Resources Board grant, the researchers have since studied 50 monkeys who were 1 to 3 months old during that smoky period and another 50 born a year later, when particle pollution levels were below the federal standard.

Blood samples from the animals were treated with a component of bacteria, mimicking the bacterial response in a tissue culture dish.

Those from the animals exposed to smoke responded “in a much-reduced fashion” compared to the control group, said Miller, an associate professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine.

“What that says is that when one of those animals encounters that pathogen, under normal circumstances, the immune system won’t respond as robustly,” she said.

The animals’ immune systems functioned — just not as well. And so far, those early effects of the smoke exposure have persisted.

“Perhaps what we’re looking at is individuals who recover very slowly,” she said. “Some people respond to a virus and get well in 24 hours, others may take weeks to recover.”

Miller’s co-investigator, Ed Schelegle, a professor of anatomy, physiology and cell biology at the vet school, measured reactivity, or how sensitive lungs are to a stimulus, and compliance, or how well lungs stretch.

He found that a subset of the exposed monkeys had very reactive lungs, like those of an asthmatic, and some very stiff lungs. Those most impacted were female.

Preliminary evidence also suggests that females exposed to smoke are gaining weight more quickly. “We think we might have some evidence of metabolic syndrome developing in these animals,” Miller said.

It’s “not a stretch to think that the effects we’re seeing in animals that were exposed as infants” would be similar in humans, she said.

“It begs the question whether the kids in this area ought to be monitored in some fashion, but no one has done that at this point in time,” she said. “Perhaps after we publish this study, that will happen.”

Many studies have linked exposure to PM2.5, which also can be found in smog, to a variety of human health problems and even death, especially in people with heart disease.

Adults with sensitive lung issues are warned to be wary of poor air, because it can aggravate conditions like asthma.

The study’s findings show the danger may be more serious for infants and children because “it’s not a temporary response — it’s something that stays with them for the rest of their lives,” Miller said.

“Ultimately, these kids could develop more severe lung disease, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which a significant disorder in this country.”

The researchers plan to submit their paper for publication soon. They hope to find biomarkers that would enable doctors to know from a blood sample whether a child is more susceptible disease later in life, Miller said.

— Reach Cory Golden at [email protected] or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden



Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter.
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Davis team wins world robotics championship

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Nepal quake death toll exceeds 1,800

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Spring storm delivers late rain, snow to Northern California

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    At the Pond: Plenty of pleasures in our bioregion

    By Jean Jackman | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Rail-safety bill passes Senate committee

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Free Family Bike Clinic set Sunday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Pioneering organic chef presents her memoir Monday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Suspect in UCD assault arrested

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A4

    Dog park marks anniversary with cleanup

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Watch them in action

    By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A5

    Stocks rise on tech earnings; Nasdaq adds to record

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

    Dodd speaks as part of public policy series

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    We did it (together)!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

    $2.72 million judgment ordered against Dollar Tree Stores

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    UCD hosts bike auction Saturday, May 2

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    Fly Fishers to hear about advanced streamer tactics on Tuesday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    Bicycle activist will speak Monday at Hall of Fame

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery



    Those texts still linger

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B6

    New ways of giving locally and beyond

    By Marion Franck | From Page: B6

    Study questions accuracy of tumor gene mapping

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A12

    Poker proceeds help youths

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

    Invest in water of the future

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

    Water, water everywhere?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

    Mayor’s Corner: A spirit of renewal permeates Davis

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

    More work to do for a safe Picnic Day

    By Our View | From Page: A12

    Anaheim, where The Force is with you

    By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A13 | Gallery



    Davis gets two baseball wins in two days

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1

    Grizzlies dominate young Blue Devils on Senior Night

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Energy, fan-friendly happenings highlight UCD spring football game

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Blue Devil golfers capture CAL Invitational title

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    UCD roundup: Aggies reach water polo semifinals

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

    Blue Devil swimmers are up to the challenge

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Babich brings the heat as DHS girls stick it to Oak Ridge

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12 | Gallery

    DHS softball struggles continue against Sheldon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12 | Gallery





    History comes alive in ‘The Sacramento Picture’

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A1 | Gallery



    Yolo County real estate sales

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A7

    Big Italian food, sports bar to fill Little Prague

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A7 | Gallery

    Davis Roots hires new general manager

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    Comcast announces speed upgrade

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8



    Whitney Joy Engler

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Valente Forrest Dolcini

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6



    Comics: Sunday, April 26, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8