The molecular and cellular underpinnings of environmental insults

In the review "Hallmarks of Environmental Insults" published in the journal Cell, Prof. Dr. Annette Peters from the Institute of Epidemiology together with Prof. Dr. Tim S. Nawrot and Prof. Dr. Andrea A. Baccarelli present a concept to understand the effect of the environment on our health.

© HelmholtzZentrum München

The review article describes the key cellular and molecular mechanisms that are capable of understanding the complex effects of the environment on our health.

The eight hallmarks include, for example, oxidative stress and inflammation, genetic and epigenetic changes, alteration of hormone regulation or of the microbiome, and altered nervous system functions.

The review article highlights the close connection with cellular processes of aging. This does not only occur in old age, but studies also show the importance of these changes already during pregnancy or childhood.

Considering the diverse chemical and physical properties of the environment, this new concept allows us to understand how key disease-causing processes are driven. In particular, it can explain why environmental impacts, such as fine particulate matter at relatively low concentrations, have large effects.

Review: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867421000866?dgcid=author 


Prof. Dr. Annette Peters
Institute of Epidemiology
Helmholtz Zentrum München – Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt (GmbH)
Ingolstädter Landstr. 1
D-85764 Neuherberg
Tel. +49 89 2180 4566

As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus, allergies and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,300 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 19 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 37,000 staff members. 

The Institute of Epidemiology (EPI) assesses genetic, environmental and lifestyle risk factors which jointly determine the occurrence of major chronic diseases. The focus is on the development and progression of metabolic, respiratory and allergic diseases, as well as heart diseases and mental health. The goal is to understand the molecular underpinning of disease better and to translate this knowledge into personalized approaches of prevention as well as polices to improve health. Research builds on the unique resources of the KORA cohort, the KORA myocardial infarction registry, and the KORA aerosol measurement station. Aging-related phenotypes have been added to the KORA research portfolio within the frame of the Research Consortium KORA-Age. Moreover, the institute makes use of the birth cohorts GINI and LISA. It plays a leading role in the planning and setting up of the German National Cohort and builds the NAKO biorepository.