UK researcher says chemicals in plastics can speed Alzheimer’s

The study is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive and irreversible neurological disorder. It’s estimated that 6.2 million Americans aged 65 and older are living with the disease that affects cognitive function, memory and behavior.Hartz and her colleagues are examining three types of bisphenols, chemical compounds used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Theys are commonly found in food containers, water bottles and the lining of cans.
“Human exposure to bisphenols is inevitable due to their widespread presence in the environment,” said Hartz. “Our data show that bisphenols trigger blood-brain barrier dysfunction and memory problems, both hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, indicating that environmental bisphenols are a critical yet underrecognized risk factor for the disease.”
Hartz’s research team provided some of the first evidence that the chemicals are a clinically relevant environmental risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Bisphenols are a concern because previous research has shown they can affect the endocrine system, which regulates hormones. The brain plays a complex role in that system.
UK researchers want to better understand how the chemicals’ disruption of the endocrine system impacts the blood-brain barrier function, potentially driving cognitive decline and accelerating Alzheimer’s disease.
“The goal of this project is to develop fundamental knowledge of environmental impacts on human health that will help promote healthier lives and reduce the burden of diseases and conditions related to aging,” said Hartz. “New insights are expected from our study that will open the door for future evidence-based health management aimed at preserving cognition in health and disease.”
The work builds on preliminary data funded by a pilot grant from the UK Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences. Hartz said, “Without the pilot funding, the strong support of the UK-CARES leadership Drs. Ellen Hahn and Erin Haynes, the entire UK-CARES team, my colleagues Drs. Bjoern Bauer, Kevin Pearson, Richard Kryscio, Bernhard Hennig, Peter Nelson, Scott Stanley and the continuous support from Dr. Linda Van Eldik and the team at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, this would have not been possible.”
This study brings together a multidisciplinary group of researchers spanning the colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Public Health and Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

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