Is air pollution behind dementia? Unraveling the origin of magnetite nanoparticles in the brain


Magnetite nanoparticles in the brain have been proposed as a risk factor for neurotoxicity, and thereby a potential cause of neurodegeneration in diseases like Alzheimer's. The origin of this mineralized iron form is unknown, and conflicting hypotheses have been suggested. On the one hand, iron nanoparticles could originate from a biogenic source, i.e. deriving from pathological ferritin proteins, with altered shell-composition or iron-core; on the other hand, combustion-derived nanoparticles have been suggested as an alternative source.

In this context, many questions remain open: what is the origin of magnetite in the brain? Is it predominantly biogenic or anthropogenic? Can we distinguish between the two types? What is the role of ferritin in magnetite formation?

We propose to use magnetic analyses, electron microscopy, and X-ray spectroscopy to establish whether a one-to-one relationship between the structural and magnetic properties of these biogenic and anthropogenic nanoparticles exists. The magnetic properties could be used as a proxy to identify and differentiate biogenic and anthropogenic magnetite nanoparticles (of airborne origin) and gain insights into their differential abundance in the brain.
This project will enable future research to understand the role of iron-storage proteins and environmental factors in neurodegenerative diseases and ageing.





Dr. L. Bossoni

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Leiden, Leids Universitair Medisch Centrum


01/09/2019 tot 31/08/2020