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Research

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that most of us breathe in every day through air pollution, and even small amounts of the gas have significant impact on cerebral blood flow and cerebrovascular function. Worldwide, the World Health Organisation estimates that 4.2 million deaths per year occur due to air pollution, and we know that carbon monoxide air pollution is linked with increased incidence of vascular diseases, such as stroke and vascular dementia. However, we don’t know precisely how low-level carbon monoxide exposure affects vascular health and contributes to pathophysiology.

Our research uses imaging (MRI and ultrasound) to probe the impact of carbon monoxide on vascular function. We use small doses of carbon monoxide to look at acute impact on blood flow and vascular reactivity, and models of chronic carbon monoxide exposure to look at longer-term impact on vascular function. We are particularly interested in the cerebral vasculature, and how carbon monoxide impacts nitric oxide synthesis and release, oxidative stress and inflammation to cause pathophysiology in this vascular bed. Previous research in the lab has shown a significant impact of carbon monoxide on fMRI signal in healthy humans, at doses a fraction of UK guidelines.

We are also developing research to look at how carbon monoxide exposure impacts tissue function using tissue culture and early-stage development, morphology and expression of HIF1alpha using an avian model. For this, we are particularly interested in the impact on cardiac function, as epidemiological studies have linked carbon monoxide exposure and cardiac congenital defects. Data collection for this work started October 2019 and the first set of results are expected in January 2020.

Research