The connection between air pollution and brain health and disease remains obscure. Recent research has established strong epidemiological links between air pollution and dementia, although the mechanisms are not well understood. In contrary to popular belief, links between air pollution and disease are not restricted to cities with highly visible air pollution. Most urban regions worldwide have air pollution levels high enough to have important impact on human disease. One of the main sites of contact between air pollution and the human body is in the olfactory (nasal) system. The olfactory system is also uniquely linked to the brain, and through exposure to air pollution, may have a role in onset and/or progression of dementia. Very few studies have investigated the relationship between air pollution and the human olfactory system.
We are in a unique position to be able to examine the effects of air pollution on human olfactory cells in culture. In this project, olfactory cells will be grown from human nasal biopsy material and differentiated into neurons and glia. The cells will be exposed to collected air pollutants. Cells will be examined for the effects of air pollution using assays for oxidative stress, inflammatory responses and altered genetic markers. These studies will help understand the relationship between air pollution and changes that occur in the brains of people with dementia.
Techniques will include neural stem cell culture, molecular studies (i.e. RT-PCR), microscopy (confocal imaging), various biochemical assays (i.e. cytokine bead arrays) and protein analysis (western blot).
- PhD project but may also be considered for an Honours project.