We already knew that environmental pollution could have negative effects on the reproductive, nervous and respiratory systems over several generations, a new study suggests an impact on the immune system.
A new link established
The negative effects of common environmental pollution over several generations also affect the immune system. This conclusion was made by Paige Lawrence, professor of immunology and toxicology at Rochester University Medical Center (USA). The researcher presented her research in a press release dated October 2, 2019, and the research was also published in iScience.
The team conducting the study exposed pregnant mice to a group of chemicals: dioxins. These are toxic substances that are considered persistent organic pollutants in the environment. They are widely used in the industry, for example in the manufacture of pesticides, paper or the incineration of waste. Some natural processes can also contribute to their products such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires. In addition, these same substances can sometimes be found in food.
Experience has shown that white blood cells with the mission of protecting the body against foreign pathogens have been weakened. This was confirmed against an influenza A virus (influenza). On the other hand, that’s not all because researchers have discovered something even more worrying. Indeed, in the case where a pregnant mouse showed signs of the weakened immune response, her offspring also showed it, just like the individuals of the next four generations! According to the researchers, dioxins will impact genes by clinging to a protein called AHR. However, this would cause an alteration of the transcription of the genetic instructions and it is this same alteration that would be transmitted to subsequent generations.
American researchers are the first to make such a link – which only needs to be confirmed by other studies. Ultimately, this kind of research could teach us more about the human immune system. For example, this may help answer the question: why are vaccines not performing to the same degree according to individuals? It could be considered that pollution is a factor of deficiency of the immune system from birth!