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UCLA Study Identifies Synergy Between Diesel Particles and Cholesterol in Enhancing Heart Disease

A new UCLA study identifies a synergistic interaction between fine particles found in diesel exhaust and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol that enhances vascular inflammation and atherosclerosis, significantly increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Published in the 26 July edition of the online journal Genome Biology, the findings are the first to explain how fine particulate matter in air pollution works with artery-clogging fats to switch on the genes that cause blood vessel inflammation and lead to cardiovascular disease.

When you add one plus one, it normally totals two. But we found that adding diesel particles to cholesterol fats equals three. Their combination creates a dangerous synergy that wreaks cardiovascular havoc far beyond what’s caused by the diesel or cholesterol alone.

—Dr. André Nel, chief of nanomedicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

The researchers set up a scenario to investigate the interaction between diesel exhaust particles and the fatty acids found in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol—the “bad” type of cholesterol that leads to artery blockage.

In particular, the team was interested in how oxidation—cell and tissue damage resulting from exposure to molecules known as free radicals—contributes to inflammation and artery disease. Free radicals enter the body through small particles present in polluted air and are also byproducts of normal processes, such as the metabolic conversion of food into energy.

Diesel particles are coated in chemicals containing free radicals, and the fatty acids in LDL cholesterol generate free radicals during metabolism in the cells. We wanted to measure what happens when these two sources of oxidation come into contact.

—Ke Wei Gong, UCLA

The scientists combined the pollutants and oxidized fats and cultured them with cells from the inner lining of human blood vessels. A few hours later, the team extracted DNA from the cells for genetic analysis.

They found that the diesel particles and oxidized fats worked in tandem to activate the genes that promote cellular inflammation. The interaction left a genetic footprint that reveals how interaction between the particles and cholesterol accelerates the narrowing and blockage of the blood vessels, according to Dr. Jesus Araujo, UCLA assistant professor of medicine and director of environmental cardiology at the Geffen School of Medicine.

To duplicate these findings in living cells, the UCLA team exposed mice with high cholesterol to the diesel particles and saw activation of some of the same gene groups in the animals’ tissue.

Exactly how air pollutants cause cardiovascular injury is poorly understood. But we do know that these particles are coated with chemicals that damage tissue and cause inflammation of the nose and lungs. Vascular inflammation in turn leads to cholesterol deposits and clogged arteries, which can give rise to blood clots that trigger heart attack or stroke.

—Dr. André Nel

The researchers’ next step will be to convert the genes’ responses to the pollutant-cholesterol combination into a biomarker that will enable physicians to easily evaluate air pollution’s effect on health, especially cardiovascular disease.

The American Cancer Society has reported a 6% increase in heart- and lung-related deaths for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter rise in particulates.

The research team included investigators from the fields of nanomedicine, cardiology and human genetics and from the Southern California Particle Center. Other co-authors included Ning Li, Berenice Barajas and Aldons J. Lusis of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; Wei Zhao and Steve Horvath of the UCLA School of Public Health; Michael Kleinman of the University of California, Irvine; and Constantinos Sioutas of USC.

Grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute; the US Environmental Protection Agency; and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported the study.




In othr words : Altairnano nanosafe is not just good for the environment but is also good for your health.


I'm hoping my grandkids will take their EV to go see ICE cars in a museum.

Bud Johns

Amen, Neilpackrat. Depending on your age, I think you just may live to see it......

Spokane Walt

Also, thank goodness the new emissions standards include Diesel Particulate filters.

Also, from what I understand Biodiesel, even at 2%, can decrease particulate emissions and help out with the aftertreament system efficiencies...


If Big Auto knew they could cure heart disease tomorrow by not bringing diesels to the U.S., do you think they would do that? Judging by what Big Cig did for years, by continuing to market cancer-causing cigarettes, I would say they would keep it a secret and continue on down the diesel and gasoline ICE trail, denying they knew, even in court, and counting the bodies along the way. Boy! the power of money is awesome at times; moves people in companies to rationalize away the truths.

This kind of information doesn't do anything except add to the list of health hazards caused by running huge numbers of ICEs. It's been known for decades that burning hydrocarbons of any kind, in the atmosphere is bad for health. And, it takes decades to do anything about it because of the slow evolutionary approach taken by the Oil and Auto companies; witness the recent announcement by Toyota for their rather anemic PHEV.

By the way, do the people in Europe ever read these blogs or do they just accept their faith as determined by the auto companies? They have been gassed for years by diesels.



Yes we do. The reason why diesels are so popular in Europe is mostly explained by taxation policies. We cannot afford large engines, for example a 5.7 Litre V8 would pay in some EU states something like 71884$ just for registration tax, you must add the price of the car plus 21% VAT. Fuel prices are also very high, 7$ a gallon, most part is tax over oil products and then you have the annual circulation county taxes.

In the land of expensive motoring, a small and punchy diesel engine with 60mpg is a smart choice, it can easily halve your monthly fuel budget. Strangely, with the diesel market penetration we have here in Europe, smog is not being a major problem. It looks like we have another pollution mix than the US, different smog precursors. Maybe we're being brain washed and love to be gassed.

It's strange for us, Europeans, listening fellow Americans complaining about the premium price of a Diesel and/or Hybrid solution or even the 1200$ for UAW, that’s a drop in the ocean for us.

Anyway, these high taxation policies in Europe could be a golden opportunity for EV’s. With the current Euro/dollar exchange ratio and some political will (no taxes for EV's) maybe we can buy a Tesla in the price range of a BMW 330d cabrio.


I wonder if the environmentalist wackos will give the Bush Administration credit for the United States having the toughest Diesel exhaust particulate requirements in the world. The Europeans will not have a requirement as difficult until after 2015.


yes I am another european who is also worried about the rise of the diesel
car here europe .
A friend of mine who used to work here in europe as an air quality
scientist working directly for the EU enviromental research center spent four
years working on airbourne contaniments from road traffic , and whenever he
or his team came up with something that could in anyway appear to be detrimental
to the pursuits and profits of the car industry , a reason was always found why the paper could not be published .
Funny that ! but then you realise that practically every government in
europe gets a large proportion of its income from the tax on road fuel .

No government in europe will ever allow the widespread adoption of the
electric car , and I believe some will actively conspire with the large auto companies to keep the ICE going in one form or another , there is quite simply
too much at stake .

I think all of us that read and contribute to this site know full well that
the electric car is the only way into the future if we all want to keep our much loved mobility and not kill our planet doing it . I think that all of us know full well
that electric propusion is much more efficient than the ICE , likewise regen braking
is much better than filling our cities with particles of heavy metal from friction
linings . So are we more intelligent than the people that we chosen to lead our
countries , in some cases yes , but on the whole no .

So to my final point, why is it that our leaders are failing to protect the population when there is a viable alternative available now , it all comes down
to money , they all put economic growth and keeping those big old friendly
companies all plumped up with fat profits , above the health and well being
of the population .

And as far as I can see it is not about to end soon !


Thank you for the enlightening information; Now, I better understand why the diesels and why the premium on fuel. It seems Europe has the same problems we have only to a more expensive extent. But, you do have an advantage in that you have a better mass transit system. Our transportation system was set up many years ago to have the railroads deliver freight and leave personal transportation to buses, airlines and automobiles. Not many of our U.S. railroads could or would ever support 100 mph trains and we are just now slowly getting back into providing local rail mass transit alternatives. I think this is because of the jump in fuel costs and we are starting to understand that daily commuting on freeways is an expensive and time consuming process.

The U.S. auto and oil companies have made great profits over a period of a hundred years selling ICE cars; but, I hope this is now ending and that EVs are the next big thing. I hope the boardrooms at GM and Ford are filling up with EV designs and that they are busy planning how and when to enter them into the market. I think the first one in the mass market with a long range $25,000 PHEV or BEV will win the prize.

Not to take anything away from President Bush but wasn't it California that set the first ULSD standard?


It does not take a genius to tell you car and truck exhaust is bad for you health, The regular reports of lung cancer and asthma caused by air pollution all make sense (polluted air->lungs breath air->polluted lungs) but this one is new.

Roger Pham

Diesel Particulate Filter will be able to clean up Diesel exhaust to the most stringent standard. HEV's like the Prius has its exhaust several folds (3-4x) cleaner than a comparable gasoline engine of same model year.

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water!

HEV like the Prius has higher well-to-wheel efficiency in comparison to a BEV getting its electricity from coal-fired power plants, and is comparable in well-to-wheel efficiency to a BEV getting its power from combined-cycle gas-fired power plants.

Don't put too much stake on BEV or PHEV when coal fired power plants still provide the bulk of electricity here and elsewhere in the world. Utilities have been resisting regulations to clean up the smoke stack, especially under the Bush Adm. As the results, coal fired power plants contribute significantly to local air pollution in term of particulate matters, and toxic mercury, too! Wanna see more of those when PHEV's and BEV's will roam the streets?


It's all hydroelectric here!


Whether California set the first sulfur requirement for Diesel fuel or not is irrelevant to the decision by the EPA to regulate Diesel exhaust particulates. To the best of my knowledge the most compelling study was one that showed that Diesel exhaust particulates could modify the immune response in the endothelial layer. This had implications relative to cancer and asthma. Besides, no Republican is his right mind would ask the Bush Administration to adopt a national standard based on California alone since their air pollution problem is somewhat unique and their politics so extreme.


Roger: You were better off advocating hydrogen than petroleum ICE vehicles. The only way you're going to make even the Prius get well-to-wheels numbers even close to an EV is by taking the worst possible electrical generation and transmission and comparing it to the lightest sweetest crude you can find.

Prius - 55mpg combined (EPA) gives roughly .6km/MJ
EV1 - 102wh/km (US DOE) gives about 2km/MJ

Gasoline has roughly an 18% loss from production, refining and transportation. (Argonne labs numbers)

Electricity loses a similar amount from transmission and
battery chemistry. (Argonne labs numbers)

So, even with a crappy coal plant at 40% your still way ahead with an EV. Now start to use NG combined cycle at up to 60%(GE) and your not even close. Then switch to renewables or nuclear (lets see gasoline or diesel do that) and you're off fossil fuels completely ... Now we're talking about clean air! EVs don't have to pollute at all, petro cars do (I don't care how stringent the standards, they're still spewing pollution within arms length of my kids). If a coal plant is dirty ... clean it up! Or even better ... replace it.

Final kicker ... peak oil. No point in advocating for something (ICE on petroleum) that's dead in a few decades (or sooner) anyway.


UltraLowSulpherDiesel and DPFs have been the law here barely a year, off-road and marine and NE heating oil all are still HS, so how does this study determine which DP came from where?

Is it my imagination(NO)...since ULSD, bioD is harder to find at retail and where the H are Cetane stickers? that say anything but 40? Modern diesels need at least 48-50C...Im sure the neonazis at CARB are all over it.

Can you imagine no OCTANE stickers? WTH are the Dept of AGS? And NBB?



Stringent standards on diesel engines (heavy-duty trucks at first) were developed and introduced by CARB, put into federal standard during Clinton administration, and was relentlessly driven home during Bush administration. However, I would not credit any administration with this great leap forward. It was CARB and EPA just doing their job.

As for mistaken practice of diesel proliferation in Europe (before making diesel engines acceptably clean), one important lesson should be learned. It is useless to suppress initially polluting or not completely safe technologies, like ICE cars or nuclear power. It is way more productive to make them clean and safe, rather than just trying to swipe them under the carpet (making big tax bucks in the process). Modern diesel cars becoming progressively cleaner in Europe, but already huge legacy fleet will be here to pollute for years to come.


You are right. Comparison of close well-to-wheel efficiency of HEV versus PHEV and BEV means one thing: no matter how much success will enjoy PHEV and BEV (I believe they will), there is and will be for a long time big niche for regular HEV. PHEV or BEV do not cancel HEV.


LSD (Low Sulfur Diesel) was mandated by California at 500ppm two years ago and down to ULSD (15ppm) for all diesel use in 2006; The EPA is allowing a transition period in the other states until 2010. The reason this is all relevant is DPFs don't work with LSD because the sulfur contaminates the device. As an aside: the increase cost at the refiner is expected to be about 5 cents and over that amount at the pump to pay for the increase in distribution costs, etc.


My Washington State produces equivalent electric energy at 5% the pollution of ICE. Plus EVs use that power 4 times more efficiently than ICE. My state passed an initiative for higher cost renewable energy sources so pollution will be driven to even lower levels. With renewable electric energy sources other states will have our low pollution #'s to shoot at. May ICE die that life may live. Long live EVs.


Deep apologies for abusing this message thread, but could someone kindly direct me to as technically complex and in depth an overview of the engineering of a HEV as is publicly available. Much thanks.

Roger Pham

Prius can travel 0.6km/MJ of gasoline in the tank, EV1 can travel 2km/MJ of electricity from the battery, OK?

However, to produce 1 MJ of electricity at 40% efficiency, then to transmit it thru the grid at 92% efficiency, then considering the efficiency via the charger and battery during charging at 90% (or lower!) efficiency, then your final efficiency will be .40 x .92 x .9 = 33%, you will need 1/.33=3MJ of heating value of coal at the plant. Dividing 2km/3MJ will give you 0.66km/MJ of coal energy! Wait! there are periods in which the power plant's turbine is operating at partial load, meaning that the overall electrical generation efficiency ain't gonna be 40% in real life! But, I'm generous and I'll give the benefit of the doubt! Ah, well, to be fair, not all Prius drivers will get 55mpg like me! More like 48 mpg as the average mpg.

So, Prius 0.6km/MJ of gasoline energy
EV1 0.66km/MJ of coal energy,
Gasoline needs refining from crude oil, and transportation, but coal will need to be mined and, chopped up and transported to the power plants as well. The heat from gasoline refining may not all be loss but can be recycled into useful work, as well.

Now, comes the real kicker: What is the payload rating of the Prius vs. that of the EV1? 850 lbs for the Prius vs. ~ 400-500 lbs for the EV? since the EV1 can only seat 2, while the Prius can seat 4 adults plus one child comfortably (4+1), with ~15 cubic feet of luggage space.
Based on this, I can now compare payload of HEV to payload of BEV, and one can see that even for higher-efficiency combined-cycle gas-fired power plants, which there aren't many around due to higher investment cost, the HEV and the BEV, payload to payload, source to wheel, would be comparable in efficiency!

Peak oil? Okay, synthesize fuels as H2 or synthetic hydrocarbon from waste biomass, coal, or renewable solar or wind energy. I've discussed in previous postings about the comparable efficiency of electrical generation vs synthesis of H2 or F-T products from solar or wind electricity via high-temp electrolysis process. Quantum energy system is delivering H2-Prii to Iceland and Norway for research.

I'm not against BEV nor PHEV. I just want to illustrate a balanced picture, that we have different viable options to invest in, and let's not put all our eggs in one basket! Let's give consumers choices among Green Car options.

P Schager

If they can distinguish between "good" cholesteral (HDL) and "bad" cholesterol, you'd think they would be able to draw distinctions between different types of diesel particulates and give us more useful information. After all, the point of doing studies like this is to give us actionable intelligence against pollution. Changing the fuel or the aftertreatment may be more productive right away than just focusing on diesel particulate quantity and hoping it's the same stuff the study had you worrying about.

Biodiesel particulates are very different from petroleum ones, and are very similar to cooking fumes, which the human species has had millennia to adapt to. They contain a very small fraction of the carcinogenic stuff, for starters. Headway could be made by focusing our biodiesel supply on the most populated areas if we knew how much this mattered.

Also particulates from ULSD are different from those from older diesel, rendering most old studies suspect. And the fine particles that could get past a DPF/CRT must be different from the larger particles that would dominate if you don't have one. E-diesel (ethanol spiked) particulates are less but also surely different.

It's an important moral issue here in the US, because while diesel engines are difficult to achieve stellar emissions from and the number of tons of vehicle Americans haul all over creation is high so pollution density has to be fought hard, if we eschew the diesel out of FUD we are burning almost 50% more petroleum. Thus contributing to greenhouse problems and islamofacist problems. It's sacrificing global health for local health--really to try and save cost in the short term even though we pay in the end for all the fuel.

Also when PHEVs are brought on stream, that cuts in half the particulates involved, and also cuts the size of the engine in half so more, bulkier aftertreatment is affordable, and special fuels like biodiesel go farther and are twice as affordable too.

Diesels aren't the ultimate solution, but they offer the most progress in the short term on GHG's and oil dependence, of things that are politically achievable. Of course it shouldn't be an excuse to impede the other solutions.


I wonder if the environmentalist wackos will give the Bush Administration credit for the United States having the toughest Diesel exhaust particulate requirements in the world.

Give Bush credit for Clinton's idea? The idea that Bush delayed?


Roger: You continue to use the worst possible numbers for electricity from the dirtiest possible sources in your attack on EVs. You included the cost of transmission for the EV but not for the gasoline. The efficiency number for the EV1 includes battery overhead.

Let's redo the coal numbers:
1/.4=2.5MJ at the plant. 2km/2.5MJ=.8km/MJ ... 30% better than the .6 Prius.

Now lets recalculate with NG (which is way more efficient to produce and transport than petroleum, but I won't even include that, I don't have to):
1/.6=1.67MJ 2km/1.67MJ=1.19km/MJ ... petroleum ice is left in the dust.

Now lets recalculate with renewables. ... Wait ... we don't have to because the petro-ICE can't run off them so it's irrelevant. EV wins by a landslide.

We've been comparing a modern Prius (the very best of petroleum ice) with an old EV1 (90s technology) ... So how about we compare the same cars.

The Prius is 55mpg ... CalCars' PHEV Prius is 100+mpg

I certainly don't wish to badmouth the Prius, It's a great and important step towards cleaner EVs. I can't help it that Roger chose it to champion petro-ice.

Yes there are other alternatives to BEVs. If you can run an H2 ICE from clean energy be my guest, good on you. (Don't ask me to pay for the infrastructure)

The bottom line is that petroleum ICE cars pollute and always will pollute. EVs don't have to pollute. I'm getting mighty tired of hearing the "pollution elsewhere, long tailpipe" crap from people that can't even imagine life without a gas station. They're the kind of catch-phrases that the petroleum industry will use to try and discredit alternatives not supplied by them.


Well, finally I can comment on something at GCC from directly within my own field!

I am a researcher in the field of cardiovascular disease, oxidised LDL and inflammation.

This study is utterly flawed, as it relies on assumptions made decades ago that have been shown to be incorrect in their assumption of what is "atherogenic". Papers still get published today using these assumptions (that oxidative stress causes inflammation and heart disease), but there is little we can do about it.


P Schager-Thanx

Who gives a FF about a 55mpg Prius. Yeah we should be all over it but...the ship, the train, the UPS and USPS truck ran on DIESEL. The computer you look at, the food in your fridge???didnt get there because of/in a Fing Prius.

Move closer to work, ride your bicycle, get a place downtown, get the crazy b you live with to stop driving to mall 3 times a day(are there any women that read this S(Im sorry) anybody actually trying to SAVE money?

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