The environment degradation today has increased considerably in comparison with that of a decade ago. Researchers are increasingly concerned about the rise in pollution. Currently, it is one of the biggest contributors to damaging atmospherical balances.
Pollution comes in many forms and from a huge number of sources ranging from the usual home electronics. It includes fridges and air conditions to big factories, generators, and power stations.
What many people do not know is that pollution will not only ruin the environment but also increase the chances of developing harmful conditions.
There have been a number of studies which have linked types of pollution to different health conditions. For instance, there is a lot of medical literature present on the link between breathing conditions and lung diseases with air pollution.
In a similar way, a new study looks at the connection between pollution and its potential impact on the brain.
Previously, there have been a few studies which have stated that there may be a link between air pollution and the development of mental diseases. It includes Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
However, the main particles that are responsible for the damage have not been yet discovered. The new research fills in this gap and looks specifically at the connections between air pollution, brain damage, and the sense of smell
A reduction in the smelling ability has, too, been already linked to early symptoms of neurological diseases.
The study was conducted by research from Penn State University. Its findings can be found in the journal eLife.
Read the study here.
How Was the Study Conducted?
In order to study the effects of pollution on the brain and neurological conditions, the researchers particularly highlighted the role of cerebrospinal fluid or CSF which is also called the ‘cushion’ for the Central Nervous System.
Research on the brain and spinal cord have recently been finding more active roles of this fluid. For instance, some studies stated that it is also the medium used for the CNS to transfer the waste out of the brain and the spinal cord.
In the new research, the focus was also on the cerebrospinal fluid because of two reasons. The first one is that there is a lack of knowledge on how exactly is waste taken out by the fluid.
The second reason is that it may play a role in the development of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease since they are also caused due to the buildup of waste proteins.
During the study, the team noted this when one of them saw labeled cerebrospinal fluid flowing out of the nose. Originally, the fluid had been dyed for something else.
After this hint, the team then moved on to see the impact of particles in the air on the fluid. Also, how it affects the smell in lab mice.
They did this by destroying the olfactory nerves or the sense of smell in the mice using zinc sulfate. It was supposed to stop the flow of cerebrospinal fluid from their noses.
What Were the Results?
Since humans and animals both are constantly making the cerebrospinal fluid, the researchers expected the pressure to rise. However, it was observed that instead of higher pressure, the production of the fluid was reduced.
Conclusively, the researchers stated that this is similar to the effects caused by air pollution on the brain. Constant exposure to certain particles in the air destroys the olfactory sensory neurons which in turn affects the cerebrospinal fluid.
Any hindrance in the functioning of the cerebrospinal fluid means that the removal of waste particles from the CNS gets affected. This further paves the way for the development of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The researchers hope to find a more detailed explanation as well as the answer to which particles particularly are responsible for this in future research.