Accelerated epigenetic age as a biomarker of cardiovascular sensitivity to traffic-related air pollution.



Accelerated epigenetic age has been proposed as a biomarker of increased aging, which may indicate disruptions in cellular and organ system homeostasis and thus contribute to sensitivity to environmental exposures.


Using 497 participants from the CATHGEN cohort, we evaluated whether accelerated epigenetic aging increases cardiovascular sensitivity to traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) exposure. We used residential proximity to major roadways and source apportioned air pollution models as measures of TRAP exposure, and chose peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and blood pressure as outcomes based on previous associations with TRAP. We used Horvath epigenetic age acceleration (AAD) and phenotypic age acceleration (PhenoAAD) as measures of age acceleration, and adjusted all models for chronological age, race, sex, smoking, and socioeconomic status.


We observed significant interactions between TRAP and both AAD and PhenoAAD. Interactions indicated that increased epigenetic age acceleration elevated associations between proximity to roadways and PAD. Interactions were also observed between AAD and gasoline and diesel source apportioned PM2.5.


Epigenetic age acceleration may be a biomarker of sensitivity to air pollution, particularly for TRAP in urban cohorts. This presents a novel means by which to understand sensitivity to air pollution and provides a molecular measure of environmental sensitivity.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Ward-Caviness, Cavin K, Armistead G Russell, Anne M Weaver, Erik Slawsky, Radhika Dhingra, Lydia Coulter Kwee, Rong Jiang, Lucas M Neas, et al. (2020). Accelerated epigenetic age as a biomarker of cardiovascular sensitivity to traffic-related air pollution. Aging, 12(23). pp. 24141–24155. 10.18632/aging.202341 Retrieved from

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Rong Jiang

Assistant Professor in Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences

Elizabeth Rebecca Hauser

Professor of Biostatistics & Bioinformatics

The incorporation of personalized medicine to all areas of human health represents a turning point for human genetics studies, a point at which the discoveries made have real implications for clinical medicine.  It is important for students to gain experience in how human genetics studies are conducted and how results of those studies may be used.  As a statistical geneticist and biostatistician my research interests are focused on developing and applying statistical methods to search for genes causing common human diseases.  My research programs combine development and application of statistical methods for genetic studies, with a particular emphasis on understanding the joint effects of genes and environment. 

These studies I work on cover diverse areas in biomedicine but are always collaborative, with the goal of bringing robust data science and statistical methods to the project.  Collaborative studies include genetic and ‘omics studies of cardiovascular disease, health effects of air pollution, genetic analysis of adherence to an exercise program, genetic analysis in evaluating colon cancer risk, genetic analysis of suicide, and systems biology analysis of Gulf War Illness.

Keywords: human genetics, genetic association, gene mapping, genetic epidemiology, statistical genetics, biostatistics, cardiovascular disease, computational biology, diabetes, aging, colon cancer, colon polyps, kidney disease, Gulf War Illness, exercise behavior, suicide


Svati Hasmukh Shah

Ursula Geller Distinguished Professor of Research in Cardiovascular Diseases

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