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Variation in the concentration and regional distribution of magnetic nanoparticles in human brains, with and without Alzheimer’s disease, from the UK

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Article number9363
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/04/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Scientific Reports
Number of pages13
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The presence of magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) in the human brain was attributed until recently to endogenous formation; associated with a putative navigational sense, or with pathological mishandling of brain iron within senile plaques. Conversely, an exogenous, high-temperature source of brain MNPs has been newly identified, based on their variable sizes/concentrations, rounded shapes/surface crystallites, and co-association with non-physiological metals (e.g., platinum, cobalt). Here, we examined the concentration and regional distribution of brain magnetite/maghemite, by magnetic remanence measurements of 147 samples of fresh/frozen tissues, from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and pathologically-unremarkable brains (80–98 years at death) from the Manchester Brain Bank (MBB), UK. The magnetite/maghemite concentrations varied between individual cases, and different brain regions, with no significant difference between the AD and non-AD cases. Similarly, all the elderly MBB brains contain varying concentrations of non-physiological metals (e.g. lead, cerium), suggesting universal incursion of environmentally-sourced particles, likely across the geriatric blood–brain barrier (BBB). Cerebellar Manchester samples contained significantly lower (~ 9×) ferrimagnetic content compared with those from a young (29 years ave.), neurologically-damaged Mexico City cohort. Investigation of younger, variably-exposed cohorts, prior to loss of BBB integrity, seems essential to understand early brain impacts of exposure to exogenous magnetite/maghemite and other metal-rich pollution particles.