If mice commuted, their brains might find it progressively harder to navigate the maze of Los Angeles freeways.
A new study reveals that after short-term exposure to vehicle pollution, mice showed significant brain damage — including signs associated with memory loss and Alzheimer's disease.
The mind-numbing toxin is not an exhaust gas, but a mix of tiny particles from burning of fossil fuel and weathering of car parts and pavement, according to the study to be published Thursday, April 7 in the leading journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Many studies have drawn a link between vehicle pollution and health problems. This is the first to explore the physical effect of freeway pollution on brain cells.
The authors found a way to recreate air laden with freeway particulate matter inside the laboratory. Whether in a test tube or in live mice, brain cells showed similar responses:Neurons involved in learning and memory showed significant damage,
Neurons from developing mice did not grow as well.
The freeway particles measured between a few dozen to 200 nanometers — roughly one-thousandth the width of a human hair, and too small for car filtration systems to trap.
"You can't see them, but they are inhaled and have an effect on brain neurons that raises the possibility of long-term brain health consequences of freeway air," said senior author Caleb Finch, an expert in the effects of inflammation and holder of the ARCO/William F. Kieschnick Chair in the Neurobiology of Aging.
Co-author Constantinos Sioutas, of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, developed the unique technology for collecting freeway particulates in a liquid suspension and recreating polluted air in the laboratory. This made it possible to conduct a controlled study on cultured brain cells and live animals. (For all co-authors and access to the study after the embargo lifts: http://ehponline.org/article/info:doi/10.1289/ehp.1002973)
Exposure lasted a total of 150 hours, spread over 10 weeks, in three sessions per week lasting five hours each.
"Of course this leads to the question, 'How can we protect urban dwellers from this type of toxicity?' And that's a huge unknown," Finch said.
The authors hope to conduct follow-up studies on issues such as:
Memory functions in animals exposed to freeway particulates,
Effects on development of mice exposed prenatally,
Lifespan of exposed animals,
Interaction of particulates with other components of smog, such as heat and ozone,
Potential for recovery between periods of exposure,Comparison of effects from artificially and naturally occurring nanoparticles,
Even an all-electric car culture would not solve the problem on its own, Finch said.
"It would certainly sharply decrease the local concentration of nanoparticles, but then at present electrical generation still depends upon other combustion processes — coal — that in a larger environment contribute nanoparticles anyway.
"It's a long-term global project to reduce the amount of nanoparticles around the world. Whether we clean up our cars, we still have to clean up our power generation."
In addition to senior author Finch, the research team consisted of lead author Todd Morgan, a doctoral student in gerontology, with fellow student David Davis and research lab technician Nahoko Iwata; neuroscientist Michel Baudry and chemist Nicos Petasis of the USC Dornsife College, with students Jeremy Tanner, David Snyder, Yu-Tien Hsu and Jeremy Winkler; Sioutas, of the Viterbi School, with students Zhi Ning and Winnie Kam; and environmental health expert Jiu-Chiuan Chen, of the Keck School of Medicine.
Funding came through grants from USC's James H. Zumberge Faculty Research & Innovation Fund and the Ellison Medical Foundation.
For an embargoed, advance full-text copy of the paper or to arrange an interview with a researcher, contact Suzanne Wu at email@example.com.
Suzanne Wu | EurekAlert!
Nanoparticle Exposure Can Awaken Dormant Viruses in the Lungs
16.01.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Cholera bacteria infect more effectively with a simple twist of shape
13.01.2017 | Princeton University
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction