BUFFALO, N.Y. Lina Mu, PhD, assistant professor of social and
preventive medicine at the University at Buffalo and a native of
China, has received a $1.3 million, three-year grant from the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to study the
short-term effects of particulate matter (PM) among Beijing
China has high levels of air pollution, including fine particles
in the air, known as particulate matter, which is known to increase
the risk of illness and death from cardiopulmonary diseases and
The shutdown of most polluting factories and the restriction of
automobile traffic in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics
presented an opportunity to conduct a natural experiment on the
changes in inflammation and oxidative damage among Beijing
residents before, during, and after the games when pollution
returned to normal.
Mu is a specialist in environmental epidemiology in the UB
School of Public Health and Health Professions, with a particular
interest in cancer etiology (cause) related to environmental
"Particulate matter levels decreased by approximately 50 percent
from baseline during the Olympics, according to data collected by
our study team," says Mu. "When the temporarily closed factories
restarted and the restricted vehicles came back on the road after
the Games, we found that air pollutant levels gradually returned to
"This circumstance created a natural experiment with two
opposite-direction interventions and offered a unique opportunity
to study short-term biological response to both decreases and
increases in ambient air pollution."
Taking advantage of this opportunity, Mu and colleagues enrolled
201 adult men and women prior to Beijing's air quality improvement
initiative went into effect, and followed these individuals to
study the short-term effects of exposure to particulate matter.
They collected serum, urine and sputum samples at three time
points: baseline (before), during and after the Olympics, and
banked the samples from each participant.
Using these samples, the researchers will determine if changes
in PM exposure over the course of the Olympics relates to changes
in oxidative damage to DNA, lipid and proteins, and antioxidant
defense. They also will see if the particulate exposure is
associated with varied levels of inflammatory proteins (cytokines
and chemokines) secreted by cells, which would indicate changes in
respiratory and systemic inflammatory responses.
"We predict that biomarker levels of oxidative damage and
inflammation will decrease, while the levels of antioxidant enzymes
and anti-inflammation will increase, in response to improvements in
air quality during the Olympic period," says Mu.
"We hope the findings will improve the understanding of how air
pollution may increase various short- and long-term health
Additional researchers on the project are Matthew Bonner,
Richard Browne, Kate Rittenhouse-Olson and Lili Tian from UB;
Furong Deng from Peking University and James Zhang from University
of Southern California.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.