Health assessment across biological length scales for personal pollution exposure and its mitigation (INHALE)

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Earth Science and Engineering


To assess the impact of pollution on personal health in outdoor/indoor urban environments, we will develop a physics-based multi-scale approach across biological length scales from the cell, lung, person (surrounded by green infrastructure) up to the neighbourhood scale. We will examine the biophysical components of pollutants that determine their cellular fate, their potential for cell and tissue damage and how this relates to health outcomes. We will use airway models to assess particle deposition and effects on people's health as well as trace the pollution particles through an individual person down to the cellular level. The focus of the analysis will be on the immediate micro-environment (~20m) around a person. The integrated modelling will also represent various intervention scenarios (e.g. roadside hedges or medication for at-risk people such as asthmatics) to assess reduced exposure and corresponding changes in health outcomes. These biologic parameters of exposure will be integrated with the cardio-respiratory response to pollution in 80 participants using a combination of cardio-respiratory, physical activity and personal fine particles exposure monitors. We will numerically model the pollution and air flows at the neighbourhood scale and apply an approach centred on the impact of pollution on health to all aspects of modelling, sensor placement and management of the environment. Thus, any mitigation strategies can be designed to minimize the impact of pollution on health.
We will model the dispersion of particles and their micro-physics within the neighbourhood with an emphasis on green infrastructure and their ability to mitigate pollution e.g. hedges can reduce heavy metal pollution. We will examine the physical effects and functional chemistry of the metals and organic components of particles at the ultracellular level to determine their interference to cell metabolism and health. We will use modelling to predict the outcomes of cell fate, so that we can back propagate biological potential of pollution particles (say) through to the individual and into the neighbourhood scale. Thus, modelling will be key at each length scale.

Planned Impact

The economic impacts will be seen from the potential use of the software and associated consultancy, both within the UK and abroad, and in the prevention of overseas codes dominating the market. The impacts also include addressing the urgent need to train scientists and engineers, at all levels, to undertake the necessary activities for the next generation of health and physics-based simulations associated with air pollution.
This work will also be of interest to wider MRC, BBSRC, EPSRC and NERC communities. Many of the techniques and tools we will be working on are also of interest to the wider computational physics community and imaging and analysis experts. There is strong potential for their re-application to resolve other physical phenomena.
Benefits to the companies include open source codes, publication results, new imaging techniques and workflows and early demonstrations. Benefits to academic research will arise through knowledge transfer activities. Our stakeholders, advisory board and project partners have been chosen to provide representation from across our target audience and to ensure that we are satisfying the needs of the wider community. The stakeholders will be served, both directly through the research we will accomplish during the project, and indirectly through access to the new modelling capabilities which we will develop and distribute via our open source coding and distribution model. The availability of our final deliverable products and the wider application of the novel numerical and modelling techniques to be developed will provide relevant input to policy makers and scientists involved with urban flows and oil-gas strategies for the UK as a whole. The planned activities to ensure good engagement and communication with beneficiaries in modelling and wider fields include: Exchanges between Surrey University, Edinburgh University, Imperial and partners;Documentation and Tools to Improve User Experience;Code Packaging;Post Processing Tool;Improved Web Based Presence;Training Events;Publications;collaboration with Universities and industries.
To maximise the potentially outstanding academic and socio-economic impact of our project, we will pursue an integrated strategy based on a number of pillars
1)Academic dissemination across relevant fields through collaboration, presentations at international meetings, numerous publications and organisation of a dedicated workshop
2)Policy advocacy and contact with UK (DEFRA, Public Health England, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology) and international (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, US Center for Environmental Health) regulators and with the most concerned automotive and petrochemical industry sectors (particularly where we already have partners) to disseminate our findings regarding the consequences of polluting nanoparticulates
3)In the long term, the general public will benefit from our research through improved health and quality of life. The knowledge generated during the project will help to identify new pharmaceutical targets for respiratory diseases. The project will also provide new assays and understanding to help evaluate chronic nanotoxicology, thus underpinning an improved regulatory framework governing both pollutants
4)The public will also benefit from an improved understanding of the risks of ultrafine components of pollution though our public communication efforts. We will increase awareness through local interactions with the lay public and more globally through online platforms and social media
5)We will align Master and PhD students to the project (including via our CDTs in Biomedical Sciences, Bioimaging, Neurotechnology, and Advanced Characterisation of Materials). This leverage will support the project and enhance dissemination, by providing a highly skilled workforce with appropriate inter-disciplinary training.
Several partners will collaborate with us in the co-production of our impact strategy.


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