A research group at the University of Ulster are investigating a possbile link between nanoparticels such as those found in suncream and Alzheimer’s disease.
Professor Vyvyan Howard (toxicologist) and Dr Christian Holscher (expert in Alzheimer’s disease) have been awarded £350,000 to investigate any link that may present itself between nanoparticles and neurodegenerative disorders.
There is now evidence that nanoparticles can migrate to the brain of small animals. This occurs either by inhalation or a hypothesised process in which the nanoparticles pass through the skin. Once the nanoparticles have infiltrated the brain there is no mechanism for the particles to be removed. It has now come to light that nanoparticles may have an important effect on misfolding of many of the proteins that are involved in neurodegenerative disorders, in both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The nerve cells of the brain must last a lifetime and are therefore highly suscepitbile to long-term low level toxicity. Thus the worry about the effects that nanoparticles may have.
A prominant protective barrier for the brain is the specialised blood brain barrier. A set of membranes that do not usually allow molecules above a certain size into the brain. It is thought that the nanoparticles can bypass the blood brain barrier and get into the brain. Once they have bypassed the blood brain barrier it is thought that the nanoparticles may interact with key proteins in the brain.
There is widespread indications that Parkinsosn’s is cloesly related to pollution and correlates with areas that have undergone industrilisation. There has always been concerns about pesticides and there possible effects on neurodegenerative disorders.
In this day and age with a fast paced development of important new technologies involving the applications of Nanotechnology in Medicine there is mounting concern about the safety of certain nanomaterials. This emphasis on safety in Nanotechnology has come about with the recent artical detailing the possible involvement of nanoparticles in respiratory disorders.
This research is important to establish a cautious approach to a technology that could some day revolutionize the way we think about illness. Thus every precaution should be maintained not to taint the Nanotechnology industry with unecessary concern about its safety. Whilst at the same time assuring complete transparency of the findings of such studies to the public. Hopefully clarity will be found to end debates about the safety of Nanotechnology allowing the scientific community to tackle these issues one way or the other. – CT
Source: University of Ulster