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Interview with Dr William Vizuete

Posted Mon, May, 16,2016

This author interview is by Dr .William Vizuete, of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Vizuete's full paper, From the Field to the Laboratory: Air Pollutant-Induced Genomic Effects in Lung Cells is available for download in Environmental Health Insights

Please summarize for readers the content of your article.
This paper describes the successful field deployment of human lung cells for in vitro exposures of ambient air found in the heavily industrialized Houston Ship Channel. By examining messenger RNA (mRNA) levels from exposed lung cells, we identified changes in genes that play a role as inflammatory responders in the cell. The results show anticipated responses from negative and positive controls, confirming the integrity of the experimental protocol and the successful deployment of the in vitro instrument. Furthermore, exposures to ambient conditions displayed robust changes in gene expression. These results demonstrate a methodology that can produce gas-phase toxicity data in the field

How did you come to be involved in your area of study?
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) have been using outdoor chambers for more than 40 years to understand how atmospheric chemistry forms air pollution. In the last 10 years we have expanded our scientific inquiry to understand the role that atmospheric chemistry has on the toxicity of air pollution. Through the course of this investigation we have developed and patented in vitro technology to permit air liquid exposures of epithelial lung cells to test atmospheres generated in our outdoor chambers. The February 2015 Benzene and other Toxics Exposure (BEE-TEX) study campaign provided a unique opportunity to bring this technology out of the laboratory and into the field.

What was previously known about the topic of your article?
All gas pollutants when emitted into the atmosphere are transformed into new secondary pollutants. These secondary pollutants have been shown to increase in vitro cellular responses in epithelial lung cells when compared to freshly emitted pollutants. These results have entirely been based on laboratory experiments. Exposures to ambient air are needed to confirm results observed in the laboratory and also to guide new experiments

How has your work in this area advanced understanding of the topic?
In this study we demonstrated a real-world test of experimental protocols and exposure technology and generated the data needed to justify further analyses. Confident in our deployment we have already begun to look at correlations in genomic responses with the comprehensive measurement data provided by the BEE-TEX study. By studying correlations with individual exposure days with varying degrees of photochemical activity we hope to provide insights on the role that secondary pollutants have on genomic responses we have seen in the laboratory.

What do you regard as being the most important aspect of the results reported in the article?
Bringing an in vitro instrument into the field introduces several challenges. First, there is the difficulty in safely transporting biological samples to the field site. Second, the field site must be located near a suitable laboratory with appropriate tissue culture equipment. Finally, sufficient baseline and field data must be provided to convince the scientific community that results are trustworthy. I believe the results presented here show that we successfully addressed these challenges and provide a proven methodology to continue these experiments in the field.

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