Published: 01-03-2023 12:24 | Updated: 01-03-2023 12:25

New thesis: Persistent environmental pollutants and risk of cardiovascular disease 

Three questions to Tessa Schillemans, Unit of Unit of Cardiovascular and Nutritional Epidemiology at the Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM)

Tessa Schillemans, IMM

What is the thesis about?
The thesis is about a group of environmental pollutants called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also called “forever-chemicals”. Since we all are exposed and their chemical structure resembles that of fatty acids, we wanted to investigate whether exposure to PFAS associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, we also explored if we could gain insight in potential underlying molecular pathways by linking PFAS exposure to biological molecules in the blood.

Can you tell us about some interesting results?
We found no evidence that PFAS was linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease in the general population. If anything, rather the opposite – which also deserves careful consideration. We did observe associations with higher cholesterol, lower triglycerides and with lipid metabolism intermediates, which all point towards potential perturbations in lipid metabolism. 

What further research is needed in the area?
It is essential to fully understand any adverse consequences that PFAS may have, since they are omnipresent and persistent. Thus, epidemiological studies involving other outcomes and vulnerable subgroups (such as pregnant women and children) should also be performed, as disturbances in lipid metabolism could impact other physiological processes. For a deeper mechanistic understanding, integration of data from different biological systems (genome, epigenome, transcriptome, proteome, metabolome) in human and experimental settings would be optimal. Additionally, since humans are exposed to many different chemicals simultaneously and these could interact with each other, there is a need for studies that investigate multiple exposures at the same time (exposome studies).

About the disseration

Time: 24 mars, kl. 9:00
Location: Rockefeller room, Nobels väg 11, Solna.

Principal Supervisor
Professor Agneta Åkesson, Institute of Environmental Medicine, KI

Associate Professor Carl Brunius, Chalmers University of Technology
Associate Professor Karin Leander, Institute of Environmental Medicine, KI
Dr. Carolina Donat-Vargas, ISGlobal Barcelona & KI

Associate Professor Tony Fletcher, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine