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Early life exposure to air pollution impacts neuronal and glial cell function leading to impaired neurodevelopment

Morris, Rebecca H.; Counsell, Serena J.; McGonnell, Imelda M.; Thornton, Claire


Rebecca H. Morris

Serena J. Counsell

Imelda M. McGonnell

Claire Thornton


The World Health Organisation recently listed air pollution as the most significant threat to human health. Air pollution comprises particulate matter (PM), metals, black carbon and gases such as ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO). In addition to respiratory and cardiovascular disease, PM exposure is linked with increased risk of neurodegeneration as well as neurodevelopmental impairments. Critically, studies suggest that PM crosses the placenta, making direct in utero exposure a reality. Rodent models reveal that neuroinflammation, neurotransmitter imbalance and oxidative stress are triggered following gestational/early life exposure to PM, and may be exacerbated by concomitant mitochondrial dysfunction. Gestational PM exposure (potentiated by mitochondrial impairment in the metabolically active neonatal brain) not only impacts neurodevelopment but may sensitise the brain to subsequent cognitive impairment. Having reviewed this field, we conclude that strategies are urgently required to reduce exposure to PM during this sensitive developmental period.


Morris, R. H., Counsell, S. J., McGonnell, I. M., & Thornton, C. (in press). Early life exposure to air pollution impacts neuronal and glial cell function leading to impaired neurodevelopment. BioEssays, 2000288.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 23, 2021
Online Publication Date Mar 9, 2021
Deposit Date Mar 12, 2021
Publicly Available Date Mar 22, 2021
Journal BioEssays
Print ISSN 0265-9247
Electronic ISSN 1521-1878
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 2000288
Keywords General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Public URL


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