Calderon Lecture - Neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration

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Topic: Neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration and mood disorders in children and young adults. Where do you go from here? by Lillian Calderon-Garciduenas MD PhD

Conference: Advanced Metal Toxicology Workshop - Washington DC March 13-14, 2013

Summary: The brain is an innocent bystander of air pollution: Neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration and mood disorders in children and young adults. Where do you go from here?

Air pollution is a serious public health issue. Outdoor and indoor air pollution in rural and urban areas is ubiquitous and exposures continuously enhance central nervous system-related risks among millions of susceptible people, including children, teens, and the elderly. Significant cognitive deficits, brain MRI structural alterations and brain inflammatory changes are present in exposed children and teens. Neuroinflammation, immunodysregulation, white matter hyperintensities, breakdown of the blood-brain-barrier, and the presence of the histological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases in children and young adults pose a deep concern in clinicians and researchers. In the U.S., millions of people live in polluted areas, for whom the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s has to be contemplated as a long-term effect. Also, of utmost importance, the well-being of children and adolescents—including their mental health, academic achievements, and overall life performance—are at stake.

Clean air is fundamental for human health and well-being. Thousands of U.S. cities exceed the standards for air pollutants and thus millions of people, including children, are showing an array of adverse short and long-term health outcomes. Research links air pollution exposures mostly to respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Not as broadly recognized in the context of air pollution and children and young adult’s brain effects are the presence of neuroinflammation, systemic inflammation, cognition deficits, structural brain alterations, and the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

We will briefly examine the brain effects of air pollutants in animal models, our clinical pediatric experience in Mexico City, and the neuropathology associated with exposures that establish the association between brain pathology and urban residency. We will argue that the brain is a target of air pollutants in youngsters and negatively influences neural development, cognition, and mood.

If neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration begin at childhood and are influenced by exposure to air pollutants, the stage would be set for a new approach to studying the molecular mechanisms involved in neurodegenerative diseases and mood disorders. We will have a window of opportunity of over 40 years for neuroprotection interventions, integrative and preventive healthcare aimed at breaking the cycle of systemic inflammation, neuroinflammation, and neurodegeneration.

Integrative Medicine physicians could play a key role in the identification of special populations at risk, nutritional interventions, and the implementation of innovative therapies targeted at risk communities.

Time: 1 hr. 9 minutes

File Type: Down-loadable Zip file including MP3 audio file and presentation slides in PDF.

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