Researchers have found that diesel exhaust causes apoptosis—or spontaneous destruction—of cells in the throat, according to a study in the latest edition of Immunology and Cell Biology.

“The fumes from burning fuels, including diesel, contribute to pollution and can cause heart disease, bronchitis, and asthma,” reports Leigh Ackland, PhD, associate professor and head of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Deakin University, Melbourne.

As it is not possible to study in real time what happens in the real human airway, the researchers conducted their research on human airway cells grown in a culture. The cells were exposed to the particulate matter emitted in diesel and biodiesel exhaust fumes.   

The researchers found that the particulate matter from diesel exhaust stimulated a “death pathway” response that the body uses to dispose of damaged cells, causing the airway cells to fuse together and die. 

“It is clear that breathing in diesel fumes is going to have a far more detrimental effect on our health than biodiesel,” added Ackland.

The study urged less dependence of diesel and petroleum fuels and advised an expanded usage of biofuels, which caused practically no cell death.

To read the abstract, click here.