A team of researchers is set to conduct a study to determine if several potentially toxic compounds that exist in polluted air are capable of entering the brain from the bloodstream and causing brain cancer.
The research by scientists at the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute and Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai will be done in laboratory mice and will focus on three – naphthalene, butadiene and isoprene – that often are associated with polluted air.
Cedars-Sinai researchers and others have used high-tech systems to detect genes and proteins involved in the development of brain cancers.
They have studied molecular changes and interactions considered “brain tumor pathways” that lead from defective gene activity to cancer generation in the brain.
The researchers also have identified certain genes that appear to support cancer stem cells. Like normal stem cells, cancer stem cells have the ability to self-renew and generate new cells, but instead of producing healthy cells, they create cancer cells.
The air pollution study is intended to determine whether up to 12 months of ongoing exposure to air pollution causes molecular changes in the brain that are consistent with the development of brain tumor pathways; if toxins associated with air pollution can cross the brain’s natural defense mechanism – the blood-brain barrier – and enter the brains of animals; and whether this exposure activates genes and proteins that support brain cancer stem cells.
In the new study, researchers will examine tissue exposed to pollutants at three months, six months and 12 months to determine if there is a change with longer exposure compared to shorter.