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The Shiels Laboratory

PAHs and air/water pollution

A focus of our lab is the effects of air pollution on the cardiovascular system. A family of compounds found at high levels in pollutants such as crude oil, exhaust fumes and cigarette smokes are the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are toxic and carcinogenic and have been been associated with a range of cardiovascular disease. We currently work on tricyclic members of this family as direct exposure has been shown to cause severe arrhythmias and contractile failure in fish. Our aim is to further understanding of the mechanisms of PAH cardiotoxicity, working in a range of vertebrate species.

A recent grant from the British Heart Foundation allowed further expansion of this project.

Techniques used include:

  • Patch clamp recordings of whole cell ion currents;
  • Calcium imaging of stimulated isolated cardiomyocytes
  • Molecular biology to assess change in gene and protein levels
  • Whole heart langendorff experiments to monitor contractile strength and heart rate