Passage of exogeneous fine particles from the lung into the brain in humans and animals

Yu Qi, Shuting Wei, Tao Xin, Chuanjiang Huang, Yichen Pu, Jinzhu Ma, Changbin Zhang, Yajun Liu, Iseult Lynch, Sijin Liu

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There are still significant knowledge gaps in understanding the intrusion and retention of exogeneous particles into the central nervous system (CNS). Here, we uncovered various exogeneous fine particles in human cerebrospinal fluids (CSFs) and identified the ambient environmental or occupational exposure sources of these particles, including commonly found particles (e.g., Fe- and Ca-containing ones) and other compositions that have not been reported previously (such as malayaite and anatase TiO 2), by mapping their chemical and structural fingerprints. Furthermore, using mouse and in vitro models, we unveiled a possible translocation pathway of various inhaled fine particles from the lung to the brain through blood circulation (via dedicated biodistribution and mechanistic studies). Importantly, with the aid of isotope labeling, we obtained the retention kinetics of inhaled fine particles in mice, indicating a much slower clearance rate of localized exogenous particles from the brain than from other main metabolic organs. Collectively, our results provide a piece of evidence on the intrusion of exogeneous particles into the CNS and support the association between the inhalation of exogenous particles and their transport into the brain tissues. This work thus provides additional insights for the continued investigation of the adverse effects of air pollution on the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2117083119
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
Early online date22 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2022


  • air pollution
  • ambient exposure
  • brain health
  • particle retention
  • particulate matters


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