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Effects of air pollution on the brain examined
The high level of air pollution in many cities and regions has been associated with considerable negative effects on health, with damage to the lungs and cardiovascular system being the primary focus. However, scientists at the IUF - Leibniz Institute for Environmental Medical Research have now shown a connection with the development of Alzheimer's.
The researchers at the IUF in Düsseldorf, in collaboration with the Dutch Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in Bilthoven and the working group for molecular psychiatry at the University Medical Center in Göttingen, were able to demonstrate "that airborne pollutants from road traffic can be formed in a mouse model (...) Accelerate amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's and increase motor deficits. ”Air pollution could therefore have a significant impact on the risk of Alzheimer's. The researchers published their results in the journal “Particle and Fiber Toxicology”.
Air pollution with negative effects on the brain
In the past few years, there has been growing evidence that air pollution has a negative impact on brain function and can therefore influence the development or course of old-age diseases such as Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, the scientists report. In an epidemiological study with older women, researchers at the IUF in 2009 had "worldwide for the first time shown a statistical connection (so-called association) between long-term traffic-related particulate matter pollution and the reduction of cognitive abilities", the IUF announced. Such an impairment is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's.
Dementia risk on busy roads increases
Further studies confirmed the suspicion of a link between air pollution and brain impairment. A large epidemiological study from Canada recently came to the conclusion that there is an association between dementia and living on busy roads, reports the IUF. In the epidemiological studies, however, only correlations would be shown without determining whether a causal relationship, i.e. a causal relationship, can be proven here.
Increased formation of harmful plaques in the brain
In order to clarify the underlying mechanisms of a possible causal link between air pollution and brain diseases, the IUF initiated the international Leibniz project AIRBAG (AIR pollutants and Brain Aging research Group) in 2012, which was Roel Schins (IUF) and Prof. Flemming Cassee (RIVM). The results of the studies on mice in which the animals were exposed to airborne pollutants from diesel vehicles make it clear that the formation of amyloid plaques (protein deposits in the brain) associated with Alzheimer's accelerates when the air is polluted and the motor deficits increase.
Causal relationship demonstrated
In their study, the scientists were able to demonstrate that there is a causal relationship between contact with airborne pollutants and the harmful protein deposits in the brain. The study "bridges the existing epidemiological findings" and "our results indicate that there is a causal relationship between air pollution and diseases of the central nervous system," said Dr. Schins.
Further studies required
The director of the IUF Professor Jean Krutmann emphasizes that further studies now need to clarify “whether the same results can be reproduced in real road traffic, what relevance the findings have for people, what constituents (soot particles or gaseous substances) of the exhaust gas mixture the damage cause what the underlying mechanisms look like and which preventive medical measures may make sense. ”In fact, the harmful effects of air pollution could have a far more far-reaching effect than previously assumed. Efforts to reduce particulate matter in cities therefore not only seem appropriate, but urgently needed. (fp)