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Pollution causes brain damage in mice
Sun, 10 Apr 2011 07:36:24 GMT
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A freeway in Southern California
A new study has found an association between exposure to air pollution and development of brain damage in mice, causing signs such as memory loss.

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California showed that tiny pollution particles in the air of freeways caused brain damage in the studied animals.

These particles are too small -- roughly one-thousandth the width of a human hair -- to be captured by a regular air filtering system in a car.

During the study, researchers exposed mice to the pollutants that come from the burning of fossil fuels and the weathering of car parts and pavement. The studied animals were exposed to the polluted air three times a week for five hours over a 10-week period (a total of 150 hours).

The researchers used their newly developed technology for collecting particulates in a liquid suspension and recreating air laden with freeway particulate matter in the laboratory, which enabled them to conduct controlled experiments on cultured brain cells and live animals.

The scientists then harvested the brain tissue of the mice exposed to toxic pollutants and carried out several tests and studies on them.

The findings published in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, indicated that inhalation of the particles significantly damaged neurons used in learning and memory, and caused signs of inflammation associated with premature aging and Alzheimer's disease.

"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.

Much past research had linked pollution with heart attacks, cancer, lung disease, and other health problems.

The researchers said that their findings do not mean that humans would necessarily be subject to the same brain damage, and more research is necessary to determine if exposure to such pollutants would have the same effects on humans.

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