Elevated levels of suspended particles in the troposphere, termed particulate matter, elicit a myriad of adverse health effects in humans, ranging from shortness of breath and wheezing to myocardial infarction and death. It is currently believed that the adverse health effects associated with particulate matter are mediated by the inflammatory response initiated by the lung following particulate matter inhalation. What remains an area of much interest is elucidating the specific properties of particulate matter, physical or chemical, that cause the upregulation of proinflammatory mediators. The basic premise of this thesis was to identify the specific chemical components of particulate matter responsible for its adverse health effects. To address this issue, instrumentation and methodology were developed wherein one could design, create, levitate and deposit particles of both known chemical composition and size onto lung cells, in vitro, followed by the monitoring of the downstream biological response. An initial study focused on the role of the endotoxin component in particulate matter toxicity. Through a series of blocking studies we found that endotoxin acted synergistically with the particle core to elicit upregulation of proinflammatory mediators, including IL-1â, TNF-á and ICAM-1; all of which are associated with the NF-êB pathway. Through characterizing this relatively simple system, one observation became apparent: the presence of the insoluble particle core had a profound effect on the cellular response; that is to say, the particle core was not simply a delivery vector, but a determinant factor in the final intracellular location of the toxic chemical. The latter observation held true as other particle types were studied and in addition, it was found that the nature of the actual chemical species itself plays a dual role in particle toxicity; first by retaining its toxic properties and second by altering the physical properties of the particle. It stems from these findings that the toxicity of the chemical components must be studied in concert and not as individual entities.
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Thesis advisor: Agnes, George
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