Air pollution particles linked to Alzheimer's found in human brain

07 September 2016 08:03

Scientists found the tiny magnetic nanoparticles in the brain.

Scientists found the tiny magnetic nanoparticles in the brain.

Tiny particles that are breathed in and taken into the brain through air pollution could trigger Alzheimer's disease, research finds.

Experts have discovered the presence of tiny magnetic nanoparticles in the human brain, like those previously associated with the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

According to researchers from the UK and Mexico, the shape and features of the nanoparticles suggest they are less likely to have been formed n aturally in the body and more likely to have come from an outside source - possibly air pollution.

What is Alzheimer's ?

Alzheimer's disease is caused by a build-up of proteins in the brain, leading to the loss of brain tissue, the death of nerve cells and a shortage of important brain chemicals.

The disease is the most common cause of dementia and symptoms can include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.

The condition affects more than 520,000 people in the country, according to the Alzheimer's Society.

People with Alzheimer's can take out medical travel insurance when they go abroad.

More research needed into link

Researchers say they cannot say for sure whether there is a causal link between these nanoparticles and Alzheimer's.

Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "Little is known about the role of magnetite nanoparticles in the brain and whether their magnetic properties influence brain function."

He says it is too early to conclude whether the presence of the particles in the brain has a causal role in Alzheimer's disease or any other brain disease.

"We know that air pollution can have a negative impact on certain aspects of human health, but we can't conclude from this study that magnetite nanoparticles carried in air pollution are harmful to brain health," he said.

He highlights the fact that, while it is important to continue to study the impact of lifestyle and environment on brain health, both age and genetic risk factors also play a role in influencing a person's risk of Alzheimer's.

The findings of the study are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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