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Approved Research

Associations of air pollution and green space with selected chronic diseases and their interactions with genetic susceptibility and lifestyle

Principal Investigator: Dr Haidong Kan
Approved Research ID: 80741
Approval date: January 25th 2022

Lay summary

While both air pollution and greenness have been associated with a wide range of health outcomes, more prospective cohort studies are warranted for causal pathways. Besides, current studies mainly target single disease-specific effect-response relationship, while cardiovascular disease and other non-communicable diseases (NCD) sharing potential pathways typically occurs in a context of multimorbidity. Whether individuals exposed to higher levels of environmental risk factors are more likely to develop multiple chronic conditions remains to be investigated. Furthermore, genome-wide association studies have identified potential genetic loci contributing to air pollution-related diseases. In addition, several aspects of lifestyle might affect health synergistically with environmental factors, serving as effect modifiers for exposure-outcome relationship. However, how genetic, lifestyle factors and environmental factors interact to cause or modulate diseases remains unclear.

This project aims to exaime associations between exposures to air pollution, greenness, noise, natural environment and selected chronic diseases, as well as potential interactions between those environmental factors and individual genotype and lifestyle factors (e.g., physical activity, dietary pattern, nutritional intake, sleep pattern) in this large-scale population study. Another interest is to examine the relationship between environmental exposures and multimorbidity. We will focus on cardiorespiratory health (such as atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and related traits (such as lung function), and NCD multimorbidity.

Specifically, we aim to 1) Assess the effect of various environmental exposures including air pollution, greenness, noise, natural environment on i) cardiovascular outcomes; ii) respiratory outcomes; iii) risk of NCD multimorbidity (the co-occurrence of chronic conditions); iv) other health outcomes of our interest; 2) Explore the potential interaction between these different environmental exposures; 3) Identify individuals with genetic susceptibility and the way health effect of environmental exposures can be modulated by individual genetic variation; 4) Examine whether lifestyle factors (e.g., physical activity, dietary pattern, nutritional supplementation, sleep pattern) play a role as potential effect modifier.

The project will be divided into several sub-projects focusing on several selected health outcomes (such as atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, related traits, NCD multimorbidity) and is expected to last approximately 3 years. A better understanding of the interplay between different modifiable environmental factors and genetic predisposition is expected to facilitate more efficient prevention strategies and provide new evidence for urban planning framework. This project may lead to a more holistic approach to personalized prevention and treatment, accounting for both individual-level factors and community-level environmental factors.