(ORDO NEWS) — A new study shows that toxic particles suspended in the air easily travel from the lungs to the brain through the bloodstream. This, in turn, can lead to neurological damage and disrupt the functioning of the brain.
Surprising in this is also the fact that the brain is reliably protected from “habitual” natural pathogens by a natural barrier that filters substances that enter it with the blood.
Polluted air contains a cocktail of many toxic compounds, but particulate matter (PM) is of greatest concern to scientists in terms of health effects.
Fine suspended particles PM2.5 and ultrafine particles PM0.1 are considered especially dangerous for the body, since their small diameter (2.5 micrometers and 100 nanometers, respectively) allows them to penetrate deeply into human tissues.
Such ultra-fine particles are able to elude the body’s defense systems. Neither signaling immune cells nor biological barriers pose a threat to them.
Such barriers exist, for example, between the lungs and the circulatory system (aerogematic), as well as between the circulatory system and the brain (blood-brain barrier).
Past research has shown a link between high levels of air pollution and mental changes and mental impairment, not only in the elderly, but even in children and adolescents.
In a new study, scientists have found small solid particles in the cerebrospinal fluid taken from patients with brain disorders. The researchers also described a process that can lead to hazardous particulate matter entering the brain.
The findings suggest that up to eight times more small particles can enter the brain if they travel through the bloodstream from the lungs than directly through the nose.
Inhaled particles can enter the bloodstream, crossing the airborne barrier and eventually reaching the brain, causing damage to the blood-brain barrier and surrounding tissues.
Particles that have entered the brain are difficult to remove, and they linger in the brain tissues longer than in other organs.
This may provide new evidence for a link between air pollution and problems with learning, memory and attention in people living in areas with high levels of air pollution.
An international team of experts from the University of Birmingham and several research institutes in China published their findings in the scientific journal PNAS.
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