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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

Florida International University Dean Researches Effects of Toxic Exposure of Metals on Brain and Link to Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Tomás R. Guilarte, dean of Florida International University Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work and professor in the department of Environmental Health Sciences and Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging, has received a $366,250 grant supplement from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to study the effects of environmental lead and manganese exposure on the brain and their links to Alzheimer’s disease.

Historically, sources of lead exposure in human populations include the legacy of lead in gasoline, paint, battery recycling and other common touchpoints. Due to the ubiquitous presence of these toxic metals in the environment, the general public -especially pregnant women and children- are at risk of chronic expose to both lead and manganese through daily consumption of food and water or environmental pollution. These early-life exposures to toxic metals may be a risk factor or modulate the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Yet, there is currently limited research on the impact that exposure to these environmental toxic metals have on the onset and progression of the disease.

The goal of the study is to determine the effects of chronic exposure of environmentally-relevant levels of lead and manganese (both individually and combined) on the cognitive performance, neuroinflammation, and Alzheimer’s disease relevant brain pathology in a transgenic animal model of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our current studies indicate that exposure to lead and manganese may be a risk factor in the worsening of Alzheimer’s disease in our society,” said Dr. Guilarte. “This study will go a long way in examining the effects of environmental toxins on the brain and has the potential to impact public policy.”

The global prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is increasing. The disease is of public significance as there are no therapeutic approaches that can arrest the progression of the disease. According to The Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia and it is forecasted that by 2050, it will cost the United States an estimated $1.1 trillion per year to care for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients.

The National Institute on Aging is a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.