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  • Maher JAD author copy 2019

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Airborne Magnetite- and Iron-Rich Pollution Nanoparticles: Potential Neurotoxicants and Environmental Risk Factors for Neurodegenerative Disease, Including Alzheimer's Disease

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>17/09/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number2
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)361-375
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Fewer than 5% of Alzheimer's disease (AD) cases are demonstrably directly inherited, indicating that environmental factors may be important in initiating and/or promoting the disease. Excess iron is toxic to cells; iron overload in the AD brain may aggressively accelerate AD. Magnetite nanoparticles, capable of catalyzing formation of reactive oxygen species, occur in AD plaques and tangles; they are thought to form in situ, from pathological iron dysfunction. A recent study has identified in frontal cortex samples the abundant presence of magnetite nanoparticles consistent with high-temperature formation; identifying therefore their external, not internal source. These magnetite particles range from ∼10 to 150nm in size, and are often associated with other, non-endogenous metals (including platinum, cadmium, cerium). Some display rounded crystal morphologies and fused surface textures, reflecting cooling and crystallization from an initially heated, iron-bearing source material. Precisely-matching magnetite 'nanospheres' occur abundantly in roadside air pollution, arising from vehicle combustion and, especially, frictional brake-wear. Airborne magnetite pollution particles <∼200nm in size can access the brain directly via the olfactory and/or trigeminal nerves, bypassing the blood-brain barrier. Given their toxicity, abundance in roadside air, and nanoscale dimensions, traffic-derived magnetite pollution nanoparticles may constitute a chronic and pernicious neurotoxicant, and hence an environmental risk factor for AD, for large population numbers globally. Olfactory nerve damage displays strong association with AD development. Reported links between AD and occupational magnetic fields (e.g., affecting welders, machinists) may instead reflect inhalation exposure to airborne magnetic nanoparticles. 

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