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Health hazard: iron oxides work in the brain - can fine dust cause Alzheimer's?

Health hazard: iron oxides work in the brain - can fine dust cause Alzheimer's?


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Iron oxide from fine dust penetrates into the brain
It has long been known that particulate matter is a health hazard and can cause cancer, among other things, under high loads. A research group has now found that particulate matter also deposits in the brain and may be involved in the development of Alzheimer's.

Millions killed by air pollution
In Germany alone, around 35,000 people die each year from the effects of air pollution, an international team of researchers reported in the journal "Nature". The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around seven million deaths worldwide annually. According to experts, the most harmful part is particulate matter. It is known that the tiny dust particles inhaled damage the lungs and significantly increase the risk of cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks.

Fine dust affects the brain
In recent years, studies have also indicated that dirty air may cause brain damage. Researchers from the “Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center” and the “Boston University School of Medicine” reported that the more the brain was exposed to fine particles in an examination, the older it appeared.

A few years ago, the results of a scientific study were published in the "British Medical Journal", which showed that fine dust affects the brain.

Much of humanity endangered
Worldwide, more than 80 percent of people live in cities whose air pollution has reached a dangerous level, according to the WHO. One of these cities is Mexico City. Samples from this metropolis indicate that air pollution could also be a risk factor for Alzheimer's.

Possible risk factor for Alzheimer's
The "Ärzte Zeitung" reports on a study by Barbara Maher from the University of Lancaster (Great Britain) and her colleagues, which provides an indication that the increased inhalation of fine dust is related to the occurrence of Alzheimer's. The results of the investigation were published in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" (PNAS).

The scientists had examined a total of 37 brain samples from patients with neurodegenerative diseases from Manchester and Mexico City. They found accumulations of iron oxide particles in all samples. "Iron oxide is associated with the formation of free oxygen radicals - and the formation of oxygen radicals is related to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's," said the researchers.

Only a few Alzheimer's cases are inherited
According to the information, the iron oxide particles (up to 150 nanometers) in the brain samples had the same composition and surface characteristics as iron oxide particles in fine dust samples. Therefore, they are presumably of external origin and did not come from the deceased themselves. The researchers emphasized that less than five percent of all Alzheimer's cases are inherited, so environmental influences obviously played a major role in the development and progression of Alzheimer's.

Interpretation of the study authors
Dr. Wolfgang G. Kreyling from the Institute of Epidemiology at the Helmholtz Center Munich and external scientific advisor to the study said: “The results of the study are an important step towards a better understanding of the role iron oxide nanoparticles could play in the brain of patients with neurodegenerative diseases . On the other hand, the studies show that it is likely that the nanoparticles in the brain come from the polluted air there. ”

So far, however, there has been no comparison of the Alzheimer's brains examined with deceased people of the same age in a control group who died for other reasons. Therefore, the alleged connection between the iron oxide nanoparticles in the brains of the patients and the development of Alzheimer's disease has so far not been regarded as evidence but as a mere interpretation by the authors. (ad)

Author and source information



Video: Toxic air pollution nanoparticles discovered in the human brain - Professor Barbara Maher explains. (May 2022).


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