Sep06

De las chimeneas directo al cerebro

Desde hace más de 25 años, cuando se descubrió que estaba presente en el tejido nervioso, los científicos le han seguido la pista y han tratado de entender hasta qué punto su presencia era natural o producto de esa contaminación.

Un grupo de científicos británicos, de la Universidad de Lancaster, acaban de demostrar que, en efecto, en las personas expuestas al aire de ciudades contaminadas, existe un mayor nivel de magnetita depositada en sus cerebros. También nanopartículas de platino, níquel y cobalto. Los investigadores estudiaron 37 cerebros de personas que habían vivido en Ciudad de México, una de las más contaminadas del mundo, o Manchester. Los resultados del trabajo fueron publicados en la revista Procedeedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

El problema con la magnetita es que es tóxica. Una vez dentro de las neuronas causa estrés oxidativo, afecta el funcionamiento normal de la célula, crea partículas inestables que terminan provocando más daño celular.

“Fue muy impactante”, le dijo la profesora Barbara Maher, principal autora del estudio, a la BBC, “cuando estudiamos el tejido vimos las partículas distribuidas entre las células y cuando hicimos una extracción de la magnetita había millones de partículas, millones en un solo gramo de tejido cerebral. Esas son millones de oportunidades para causar daños”.

Pero el verdadero temor entre los expertos es que contaminantes como la magnetita resulten asociados a la epidemia de alzhéimer. “Debido a una mayor producción de radicales libres, está causalmente vinculada a las enfermedades neurodegenerativas como el alzhéimer. La exposición a este tipo de nanopartículas de magnetita, derivadas de material particulado en el aire, podría necesitar ser examinado como un posible peligro para la salud humana”, concluyeron los investigadores.

Trabajos previos han indicado un vínculo de altos niveles de magnetita en el cerebro con alzhéimer. Pero ese debate apenas comienza. Jennifer Pocock, neuróloga del University College London, señaló en un comunicado del Science Media Centre que la evidencia sobre magnetita por contaminación en el cerebro es fuerte, pero aún falta mucho trabajo antes de conectarla directamente con el alzhéimer.

“Debido a que la magnetita es tan tóxica para el cerebro, me ha hecho ver la atmósfera que respiro de forma diferente”, le dijo la investigadora a la revista New Scientist. La certeza de que la magnetita y otros contaminantes del smog en las ciudades son un problema silencioso la han llevado a caminar lejos del borde del andén en las calles muy transitadas, a no detener su auto justo detrás de otro para evitar el chorro de los tubos de escape, tomar rutas menos transitadas, así como usar aire acondicionado cuando el tráfico se pone pesado.

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