Saturday, April 9, 2011

Freeway pollution damages mouse brains

Freeway traffic nanoparticles damages mouse brains
Image credit: Wikimedia commons

Freeway pollution dangerous for brain health

A daily commute in heavy traffic might be damaging to your brain suggests new research from University of Southern California. Scientists say traffic pollution could lead to the type of brain damage seen with Alzheimer's disease. 

Findings published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal showed mice exposed to 150 hours of freeway pollution over a period of ten weeks had damage to neurons in the brain that can lead to memory loss, premature aging, inflammation and developmental delays.

Senior author Caleb Finch, Chair of the ARCO/William F. Kieschnick in the Neurobiology of Aging says you can't see the harmful nanoparticles emitted from vehicles, but they're there "and have an effect on brain neurons that raises the possibility of long-term brain health consequences of freeway air."

The researchers used an aerosol suspended in water to deliver the same type of nanoparticle pollution inhaled by humans to the mice used in the study. The brain changes in the mice that lead to damage came from increased inflammatory cytokines, impaired growth of cell structures in the brain and decreased brain activity in the area of the hippocampus.

The scientists note the negative health effect of freeway pollution on blood vessels and lung health is well documented, but the effect on the brain has not been well studied.  The current findings shows pollution from vehicles found in freeway traffic damages the brain, according to the mouse study.

Environmental Health Perspectives

Citation: Morgan TE, Davis DA, Iwata N, Tanner JA, Snyder D, Ning Z, et al. 2011. Glutamatergic Neurons in Rodent Models Respond to Nanoscale Particulate Urban Air Pollutants In Vivo and In Vitro. Environ Health Perspect :-. doi:10.1289/ehp.1002973