air pollution and Alzheimer’s

Connection between air pollution and Alzheimer’s disease

2.4 million, multi-university NIH study on air pollution’s impact on Alzheimer’s and dementia-related diseases
April 3, 2019

New study will examine the emerging evidence that the air we breathe over our lifetimes impacts our brain health when we age. Xiaohui Xu, PhD, associate professor and department head at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, is the Texas A&M site principal investigator on a study that will examine this evidence.

Researchers from Texas A&M University, George Washington University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have been awarded $2.4 million by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute of Aging, both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to study the effects of air pollution exposure on brain health, based on the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study (ARIC). A total of 15,792 middle-aged (45–64 years) men and women from four U.S. communities participated in the ARIC study, which included extensive examinations, information on demographics, medical history, medication use and health behaviors.

Xu and Texas A&M researchers Qi Ying, PhD, and Eun Sug Park, PhD, will develop air pollution modelling, generate air quality data to assess exposure, manage data and develop statistical approaches for analysis. The research group will focus on studying midlife to later life air pollution exposure.

An advance modeling approach will be used to generate monthly estimates of ambient pollutants to better understand the pollution levels during a person’s lifetime along with the ARIC study.

In order to recommend or develop interventions to reduce the dementia burden through reducing ambient air pollution exposure, the researchers must determine whether there is a link between specific pollutants and Alzheimer’s and dementia-related diseases, and what groups are most affected.

“The overall goal of the research is to find prevention methods for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia,” Xu said. “Delaying the onset of dementia even by just one year would have a significant impact for the patient, their family and society, making this an issue of public health.”

The research team includes Melinda Power, PhD, principal investigator, from George Washington University; Eric Whitsel, PhD, University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill site principal investigator; and Richard Smith, PhD, also from UNC.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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