Air quality can harm early brain development

Researchers in the United States (U.S.) have found a link between traffic-related air pollution and increased risk for changes in brain development relevant to neuro-developmental disorders.
Their study which was recently published in the journal of ‘Translational Psychiatry,’ was based on rodent models and it corroborated previous epidemiological evidence showing this association.
Neurodevelopmental disorders are a group of disorders in which the development of the central nervous system is disturbed. This can include developmental brain dysfunction, which can manifest as neuropsychiatric problems or impaired motor function, learning, language or non-verbal communication.
Senior author of the study, Pamela Lein, said while air pollution had long been a concern for pulmonary and cardiovascular health, it had only been within the past decade that scientists had turned their attention to its effects on the brain.
Researchers had previously documented links between proximity to busy roadways and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, but preclinical data based on real-time exposures to traffic-related air pollution was scarce to nonexistent.
Lein worked with UC Davis atmospheric scientist Anthony Wexler and first author Kelley Patten, a doctoral student in the UC Davis graduate group for pharmacology and toxicology, to develop a novel approach to study the impacts of traffic-related air pollution.
The researchers at the University of California, Davis, set up a vivarium near a traffic tunnel in Northern California so they could mimic, as closely as possible, the experience of humans in a rodent model.
According to Lein, “It’s important to know if living close to these roadways poses a significant risk to the developing human brain.
“If it does,” Lein continues, “scientists can warn susceptible individuals, such as pregnant women, particularly those who have already had a child diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder, to take appropriate precautions to minimise risks to the health of their child’s brain.”
The ‘Medical Xpress’ reported that the researchers compared the brains of rat pups exposed to traffic-related air pollution with those exposed to filtered air and found abnormal growth and increased neuroinflammation in the brains of animals exposed to air pollution.


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