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Diabetes, pre-diabetes, air pollution can lead to interstitial lung disease

Lung fibrosis is the scarring of tissues leading to breathlessness, chronic cough, and weakness.

A new study connects insulin resistance and repetitive ozone exposure to the development of interstitial lung disease. Read on to know more.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Published : December 11, 2020 2:39 PM IST

Interstitial lung disease affects millions of people across the globe. Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance are now said to be risk factors for developing pulmonary fibrosis. People with pre-diabetes or diabetes who live in ozone-polluted areas may have an increased risk for an irreversible disease with a high mortality rate. These findings are especially important today in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, where there is a heightened concern for the convergence of health effects from air pollution and SARS-CoV-2 in susceptible populations. A new study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives connects insulin resistance and repetitive ozone exposure to the development of interstitial lung disease. This study was conducted by researchers from the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation.

Smog is known to trigger upper airway diseases

Ozone, a gas often referred to as "smog", is known to exacerbate certain lung diseases, such as asthma and rhinitis, which are primarily upper airway diseases. But recent epidemiology suggests an association between high ozone concentrations and adverse health effects in the deep lung, which cause difficulty breathing due to lung restriction and stiffness.

Insulin resistance and lung fibrosis

For the purpose of the study researchers looked at healthy mice, mice with mild insulin resistance and mice with marked insulin resistance. They found a direct relationship between insulin resistance levels and the severity of lung inflammation and scarring (fibrosis). They also saw that the mice prone to diabetes mice were particularly susceptible to inflammation and tissue remodeling caused by repeated ozone exposure. This suggests that ozone exposure could exacerbate pulmonary fibrosis, particularly in individuals who have diabetes. Researchers reiterate that poorly controlled diabetes, in particular, may be an important co-morbidity for worsened lung damage.

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Pulmonary fibrosis, interstitial lung disease major risks

The results of the study propose a causal link for ozone exposure to preferentially promote early pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial lung disease in pre-diabetic mice. Researchers exposed these mice only for three weeks, but there are millions of people living in modern cities and they are exposed to high levels of ozone day after day. This makes it necessary to consider the prevalence of pre-diabetes people too. This study results suggest that people who are borderline insulin resistant, or diabetic, and living in areas with high levels of ozone pollution might be at an increased risk for developing interstitial lung disease. Previous studies had connected pre-diabetes to multiple possible adverse responses to air pollution. Earlier research also shows the adverse effects on heart rate, blood pressure, and adipose tissue inflammation in pre-diabetic rodents that were exposed to ozone.

The researchers believe this study is the first of its kind, as it describes exacerbated pulmonary inflammation and remodeling due to repetitive, short-term ozone exposures in insulin-resistant rodents that also exhibit other manifestations of type 2 diabetes.

(With inputs from IANS)

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