New research shows that children exposed to air pollution may experience some of the very same physical and genetic changes in their brains that adults who have Alzheimer’s disease experience. It’s not a big shock that more scientists have linked air pollution to health problems. Past research shows that air pollution is linked to asthma, autism, bodily inflammation, poor academic success, brain, respiratory, and digestive problems in early life, low IQ, developmental delays, slower lung growth and other serious issues. In the case of this study, researchers compared the brains of children and young adults living in urban, higher pollution areas with the brains of those living in less polluted, rural areas. While studying the brains, researchers found that the gene expression analysis showed there were major differences in how the genes worked between rural and urban dwellers. In fact, more than 100 genes were changed in the brains of individuals who lived in urban areas.
Brains from individuals living in urban areas showed signs of amyloid-B plaques and 40% expressed pretangle material. To compare, scientists found no sign of either condition in the brains of individuals living in rural areas. Amyloid-B plaques and pretangle materials are pretty science-minded terms, but to sum up, the plaques are protein deposits commonly found in the brains of people experiencing Alzheimer’s. Pretangle material is also often associated with Alzheimer’s. Researchers did not measure air quality as part of their study, but specifically chose an area known as having some of the worst air pollution in the world, Mexico City. Overall, researchers involved in this study found the entire study to be alarming, as the brain changes they saw aren’t normally seen in young people. The researchers suggest that for the sake of public health, many more long-term and comprehensive studies looking into the link between air pollution and brain damage in children are important and necessary.
Lead image by jkpics via sxc.