News from ISGlobal
There is growing evidence that exposure to air pollution adversely affects cognitive and behavioural development in children, but the mechanisms underlying this association are, as yet, unknown. Now, the findings of a new study from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) suggest that the ε4 variant of the APOE gene may play a significant role in this process. The study has been published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
In the new study, which analysed data from over 1,600 children attending 39 schools in Barcelona, scientists observed that the association between exposure to traffic-related pollution and adverse effects on neurodevelopment was more marked in the children who carried the ε4 allele of the APOE gene . Carriers of this genetic variant had higher behaviour problem scores and their attention capacity developed more slowly. Moreover, the volume of the caudate nucleus, an anatomical brain structure, tended to be smaller in that population.
“Systemic inflammation and oxidative stress are two of the most well-established mechanisms underlying the adverse health effects of air pollution. Interestingly, both these mechanisms are also involved in the pathogenesis of dementia. In fact, research has demonstrated an association between exposure to air pollution and cognitive impairment in older people. All these considerations, and the fact that APOE ε 4 is the most important known genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease , led us to wonder whether the allele might also have a relationship with the adverse effects air pollution has on brain function in children,” says Silvia Alemany.
Alemany S, Vilor-Tejedor N, García-Esteban R, Bustamante M, Dadvand P, Esnaola M, Mortamais M, Forns J, van Drooge BL, Álvarez-Pedrerol M, Grimalt JO, Rivas I, Querol X, Pujol J, Sunyer J. Traffic-Related Air Pollution, APOE Status, and Neurodevelopmental Outcomes among School Children Enrolled in the BREATHE Project (Catalonia, Spain) .Environ Health Perspect. 2018 Aug 2;126(8):087001. doi: 10.1289/EHP2246. eCollection 2018 Aug.