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The cytotoxic, inflammatory and oxidative potential of coconut oil-substituted diesel emissions on bronchial epithelial cells at an air-liquid interface


Diesel emissions contain high levels of particulate matter (PM) which can have a severe effect on the airways. Diesel PM can be effectively reduced with the substitution of diesel fuel with a biofuel such as vegetable oil. Unfortunately, very little is known about the cellular effects of these alternative diesel emissions on the airways. The aim of this study was to test whether coconut oil substitution in diesel fuel reduces the adverse effect of diesel emission exposure on human bronchial epithelial cells. Human bronchial epithelial cells were cultured at air-liquid interface for 7 days and exposed to diesel engine emissions from conventional diesel fuel or diesel fuel blended with raw coconut oil at low (10%), moderate (15%) and high (20%) proportions. Cell viability, inflammation, antioxidant production and xenobiotic metabolism were measured. Compared to conventional diesel, low fractional coconut oil substitution (10% and 15%) reduced inflammation and increased antioxidant expression, whereas higher fractional coconut oil (20%) reduced cell viability and increased inflammation. Therefore, cellular responses after exposure to alternative diesel emission are dependent on fuel composition.

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This research was funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery grant (DP120100126), The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation PhD Scholarship (PhD2014-10), The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation New Investigator grant (NR2013-232) and National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Fellowship (APP1026215).

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Correspondence to Annalicia Vaughan.

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Research ethics

This study was approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee for the Metro North Hospital and Health Service and the University of Queensland (HREC/11/QPCH/196: Interventions to reduce pulmonary toxicity of ultrafine particles: SSA/11/QPCH/233).

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Vaughan, A., Stevanovic, S., Banks, A.P.W. et al. The cytotoxic, inflammatory and oxidative potential of coconut oil-substituted diesel emissions on bronchial epithelial cells at an air-liquid interface. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 27783–27791 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-05959-5

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  • Diesel
  • Bronchial epithelial cells
  • Air pollution
  • Coconut oil
  • Inflammation
  • Antioxidants
  • Toxicity