Research Cores: Cardiorespiratory Effects

Core Director: Frank Gilliland


Members: Jonathan Samet, Edward Avol, J.C. Chen, Edward Crandall, Michael Gould, William Linn, Wendy Mack, Rob McConnell, Jean Richardson, Marc Riedl, Beate Ritz, David Warburton


Affiliate Members: Hooman Allayee, Jesus Araujo, Carrie Breton, Talat Islam


The Cardiorespiratory Effects Research Core (CERC) is led by Dr. Gilliland. The aim of the CERC is to contribute to the scientific basis for environmental heath interventions and policy to protect the cardiovascular and respiratory health of the public and thereby reduce the burden of cardiorespiratory disease.

More specifically, the CERC aims to:


(1) Assess how air pollution contributes to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in humans.


(2) Learn how host factors (genetic, epigenetic, health status, obesity, and other social and behavioral factors) affect risk.


(3) Train future investigators to conduct EHS research on environmentally related cardiopulmonary diseases in human populations.


These goals are motivated by the public health concerns arising from the potential impact of exposure to harmful levels of particulate matter (PM) and ozone in a substantial portion of the US population.

Scientific findings from the CERC indicate that:


• Air pollution at current urban levels has substantial but preventable acute and chronic adverse effects on children's respiratory health including lung function development, and the development, progression, and exacerbation of asthma and respiratory allergy


• Children living near heavy traffic experience substantial adverse effects on lung function development and asthma occurrence that add to the adverse effects of ambient air pollutants such as PM or NO2


• Long-term exposure to PM2.5 is associated with increased atherosclerosis as indicated by carotid artery thickness


• Environmental exposures in early life are determinants of asthma occurrence


• Secondhand smoke and in utero exposure to maternal smoking have marked adverse effects on children's airway disease


• Susceptible subgroups of children, based on common genetic variants, health status and parental stress are at increased risk for adverse effects of air pollution


• Communities are concerned about air pollution and traffic, and, with Center support they are poised to use Center research results to work toward improving public health

These research findings have contributed to the scientific basis for national air pollution regulations and have been communicated through community and education outreach activities to communities, regulators, legislators and public health and clinical decision-makers.


New critical areas of interest for the CERC include studying the effects of complex mixtures of air pollutants that co-occur with recognized harmful pollutants. Recently, it has been recognized that air pollutant research needs to be conducted in a multipollutant context that accounts for variation in the complex mixture of air pollution. Beyond considering these complex environmental exposures, there is new knowledge about pathophysiologic mechanisms and new indicators of susceptibility are emerging, including social and behavioral factors, epigenetic profiles and obesity, all of which need to be assessed in the context of exposure and other established susceptibility factors such as health status and genetic variation.