Investigating Air Pollution and Atherosclerosis in Humans: Concepts and Outlook

Nino Künzli, Laura Perez, Stephanie von Klot, Damiano Baldassarre, Marcus Bauer, Xavier Basagana, Carrie Breton, Julia Dratva, Roberto Elosua, Ulf de Faire, Kateryna Fuks, Eric de Groot, Jaume Marrugat, Johanna Penell, Jochen Seissler, Annette Peters, Barbara Hoffmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although ambient particulate matter contributes to atherosclerosis in animal models, its role in atherogenesis in humans needs to be established. This article discusses concepts, study design, and choice of health outcomes to efficiently investigate the atherogenic role of ambient air pollution, with an emphasis on early preclinical biomarkers of atherosclerosis that are unaffected by short-term exposure to air pollution (eg, carotid intima-media thickness [CIMT] and functional performance of the vessel). Air pollution studies using these end points are summarized. The CIMT is currently the most frequently used outcome in this field (6 studies). The continuous nature of CIMT, the lack of short-term variation, its relationship to atherosclerotic changes in the artery wall, its predictive value for coronary heart disease, and the noninvasiveness of the assessment make it a useful candidate for cross-sectional and longitudinal studies investigating the role of air pollution in atherogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-343
Number of pages10
JournalProgress in Cardiovascular Diseases
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • Air quality
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Endothelial dysfunction
  • Environment
  • Particulate matter
  • PM2.5

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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    Künzli, N., Perez, L., von Klot, S., Baldassarre, D., Bauer, M., Basagana, X., Breton, C., Dratva, J., Elosua, R., de Faire, U., Fuks, K., de Groot, E., Marrugat, J., Penell, J., Seissler, J., Peters, A., & Hoffmann, B. (2011). Investigating Air Pollution and Atherosclerosis in Humans: Concepts and Outlook. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 53(5), 334-343.