Susceptibility to particle health effects, miRNA and exosomes: rationale and study protocol of the SPHERE study

Valentina Bollati, Simona Iodice, Chiara Favero, Laura Angelici, Benedetta Albetti, Raquel Cacace, Laura Cantone, Michele Carugno, Tommaso Cavalleri, Barbara De Giorgio, Laura Dioni, Silvia Fustinoni, Mirjam Hoxha, Barbara Marinelli, Valeria Motta, Lorenzo Patrini, Laura Pergoli, Luciano Riboldi, Giovanna Rizzo, Federica RotaSabrina Sucato, Letizia Tarantini, Amedea S ilvia Tirelli, Luisella Vigna, Pieralberto Bertazzi, Angela C ecilia Pesatori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Despite epidemiological findings showing increased air pollution related cardiovascular diseases (CVD), the knowledge of the involved molecular mechanisms remains moderate or weak. Particulate matter (PM) produces a local strong inflammatory reaction in the pulmonary environment but there is no final evidence that PM physically enters and deposits in blood vessels. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) and their miRNA cargo might be the ideal candidate to mediate the effects of PM, since they could be potentially produced by the respiratory system, reach the systemic circulation and lead to the development of cardiovascular effects.The SPHERE ("Susceptibility to Particle Health Effects, miRNAs and Exosomes") project was granted by ERC-2011-StG 282413, to examine possible molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of PM exposure in relation to health outcomes.

METHODS/DESIGN: The study population will include 2000 overweight (25 

DISCUSSION: SPHERE is the first large study aimed to explore EVs as a novel potential mechanism of how air pollution exposure acts in a highly susceptible population. The rigorous study design, the availability of banked biological samples and the potential to integrate epidemiological, clinical and molecular data will also furnish a powerful base for investigating different complementary molecular mechanisms. Our findings, if confirmed, could lead to the identification of potentially reversible alterations that might be considered as possible targets for new diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1137
Number of pages1
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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