Air pollution particles in young brains linked to Alzheimer’s damage.
Exclusive: if discovery is confirmed it will have global implications as 90% of people breathe dirty air
The nanoparticles were closely associated with abnormal proteins that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease. The aberrant proteins were not seen in the brains of age-matched people from less polluted areas, they said.
“It is terrifying because, even in the infants, there is neuropathology in the brain stem,” said Prof Barbara Maher, at Lancaster University, UK, and part of the research team. “We can’t prove causality so far, but how could you expect these nanoparticles containing those metal species to sit inert and harmless inside critical cells of the brain? That’s the smoking gun – it seriously looks as if those nanoparticles are firing the bullets that are causing the observed neurodegenerative damage.”
Maher said the work provides hypotheses that could now be tested. For example, brain stem damage would affect the movement control and gait of young people and this should correlate with pollution exposure if the nanoparticles are the cause.