Breathing polluted air can cause toxic particles to be transported from the lungs to the brain, according to one study, potentially contributing to brain disorders and neurological damage. An international team of scientists from the University of Birmingham, UK, and institutions in China have identified a possible direct route used by various inhaled fine particles through the blood circulation, with evidence that, once there, the particles remain in the brain longer than in other major metabolic organs.
The study, published Monday in the journal PNAS, found several fine particles in human cerebrospinal fluids taken from patients who’d had brain disorders — and revealed a process that can cause toxic particles to enter the brain. “There are gaps in our knowledge about the harmful effects of fine particles in the air on the central nervous system,” said study co-author Iseult Lynch, a professor at the University of Birmingham.
The finding sheds new light on the link between inhaling particles and how they then move through the body. “The data suggest that up to eight times the number of fine particles can reach the brain by traveling through the bloodstream from the lungs than directly through the nose – adding new evidence on the relationship between air pollution and harmful effects of such particles on the brain. said Lynch.
The researchers noted that air pollution is a cocktail of many toxic components, but particulate matter, especially fine particles from the environment such as PM2.5, are of most concern in terms of causing harmful health effects. Ultrafine particles, in particular, can escape the body’s protective systems, including sentinel cells and biological barriers, they said.
Recent evidence has shown a strong link between high levels of air pollution and marked neuroinflammation, Alzheimer’s-like changes and cognitive problems in older people and even children, the researchers said. The researchers found that inhaled particles can enter the bloodstream after crossing the air-blood barrier — eventually reaching the brain and leading to damage to the brain-blood barrier and surrounding tissues if they do.
Once in the brain, the particles were difficult to remove and retained longer than in other organs, they said. The study provides new evidence to demonstrate the risks of particulate matter pollution to the central nervous system.
However, the researchers recommend that more research is needed on the mechanics of how inhaled fine particles from the environment reach the brain.
Get all the latest news, breaking news, watch top videos and live TV here.