24 August 2009 University of Ulster
Groundbreaking Research Links Sunscreen and Alzheimer's Disease
Scientists at the University of Ulster are investigating a link between some man-made nanoparticles, such as those found in sunscreens and Alzheimer's disease.
A nanoparticle measures between 1 and 100 nanometres. A nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre.
“There is now firm evidence that some engineered nanoparticles entering intravenously or via lungs can reach the brains of small animals. Indeed they lodge in almost all parts of the brain and there are no efficient clearance mechanisms to remove them once there,” said Professor Howard.
“There are also suggestions that nanoscale particles arising from urban pollution have reached the brains of animals and children living in Mexico City .
“It has recently been discovered that nanoparticles can have highly significant impacts on the rate of misfolding of key proteins associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
"The brain itself is a very special organ. It cannot repair by replacing nerve cells, the ones you get at birth have to last all your life, which makes them peculiarly vulnerable to long term low dose toxicity.
“It requires the marshalling of unique expertise, methodologies, techniques and materials, many themselves completely new and never before brought together in the required combination.
"The latest figures show that neurodegenerative diseases currently affect over 1.6% of the European population, with dramatically rising incidence likely in part to the increase of the average age of the population. This is a major concern for all industrialized societies.
“There is also some epidemiological evidence that Parkinson's disease is connected to environmental pollutants and it is often noted that historically, reports of Parkinson's symptoms only began to appear after widespread industrialization.
“There is some general agreement that pesticides are significant risk factors. There are persistent claims, based on the epidemiology, that pollution may be a co-factor in Alzheimer's disease, but here the evidence is controversial.
“The risk that engineered nanoparticles could introduce unforeseen hazards to human health is now also a matter of growing concern in many regulatory bodies, governments and industry.”
The NeuroNano Programme builds on some striking published findings as well as preliminary data from most significant circumstantial evidence that nanoscale particles could impact on such diseases.
The University of Ulster is clearly recognised as a leader in the field of nanotoxicology after winning this funding from the EU - less than 1% of applicants were successful. This grant builds on expertise in the previous EU Framework Programme - NanoInteract.
Source: University of Ulster /...
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