Scientists at the IUF – Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Düsseldorf, Germany, have shown that tire wear, age and temperature accelerate neurodegeneration (i.e. the decline of nerve cells) in models of the nematode C. elegans for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The corresponding study was published in the journal Environmental Pollution.
Düsseldorf, 01/06/2023. In addition to genetic factors and age, air pollution is also one of the risk factors for diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. The first thing that comes into mind with regard to air pollution is usually car exhaust, but tire wear is also a part of it. Based on this knowledge, Professor Anna von Mikecz’s research group studied the influence of tire wear and age on models of the nematode C. elegans for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. As an additional factor, also considering global warming, the experiments were carried out at different ambient temperatures.
The study used silicon dioxide (nano-silica; SiO2) as an example for a tire component. The working group has already looked at these small particles in another context: They are used as a food additive to prevent clumping and showed negative effects when ingested by the nematode. In the current study, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, there were also negative effects when the nematode took up the silica from the environment. The degradation of nerve cells was observed. The Alzheimer’s model of the nematode was particularly susceptible, in which reduced nerve function was measured. The Parkinson’s model showed the degradation of nerve cells that produce dopamine. The conclusion was that all three factors, tire wear, age and 25 degrees Celsius accelerated the degradation of nerve cells in models of the nematode for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
“This is the first time that we have studied the effect of temperature on the degeneration of neurons, and the results are really exciting,” reports Professor Anna von Mikecz. “The studies in C. elegans Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s models show that cold ambient temperature prolongs their health span. This is also consistent with observations from a research team in Cologne, Germany, that were published recently.” We will see to what extent these results can also be transferred to humans in the future. In a next step, the Mikecz’s group plans to study other tire components as well as urban air samples.
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Limke A, Scharpf I, Blesing F and von Mikecz A: Tire components, age and temperature accelerate neurodegeneration in C. elegans models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Environ Pollut 2023.
About the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans
The roundworm C. elegans is widely used in aging research for several reasons: It is a multicellular organism with a short life cycle and mean lifespan of 15-20 days. Its genome is completely sequenced and more than 60 percent of its genes have the same structure and function of human genes. The worm has a small size of about 1 mm, it is transparent, and it has very well characterized phenotypes (appearance) and behaviors. Remarkably, several age-associated features are conserved between C. elegans and humans: progressive degeneration of different tissues, decline in physiological functions and resistance to stress, and increased probability of death with age. These evolutionarily conserved animal features can be analyzed under the microscope to study the effects of genetic or environmental interventions on the aging process, with important implication for human health.
About the IUF
The IUF – Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine investigates the molecular mechanisms through which sun radiation, air pollution and selected chemicals harm human health. The main working areas are environmentally induced aging of the lung, the skin, the central nervous system and the immune system. Through development of novel model systems the IUF contributes to the improvement of risk assessment and the identification of novel strategies for the prevention / therapy.
More information: https://iuf-duesseldorf.de/en/
The IUF is part of the Leibniz Association: https://www.leibniz-gemeinschaft.de/en
Prof. Anna von Mikecz, Working group leader
Phone: 0211 3389 358
Christiane Klasen, Assistant to the institute’s Director
Phone: 0211 3389 216
IUF – Leibniz-Institut für umweltmedizinische Forschung GmbH
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