Severe air pollution exposures produce systemic, respiratory, myocardial, and brain inflammation and Alzheimer's disease (AD) hallmarks in clinically healthy children. We tested whether hippocampal metabolite ratios are associated with contrasting levels of air pollution, APOE, and body mass index (BMI) in paired healthy children and one parent sharing the same APOE alleles. We used 1H-MRS to interrogate bilateral hippocampal single-voxel in 57 children (12.45±3.4 years) and their 48 parents (37.5±6.78 years) from a low pollution city versus Mexico City (MC). NAA/Cr, Cho/Cr, and mI/Cr metabolite ratios were analyzed. The right hippocampus NAA/Cr ratio was significantly different between cohorts (p = 0.007). The NAA/Cr ratio in right hippocampus in controls versus APOE β4 MC children and in left hippocampus in MC APOE β4 parents versus their children was significantly different after adjusting for age, gender, and BMI (p = 0.027 and 0.01, respectively). The NAA/Cr ratio is considered reflective of neuronal density/functional integrity/loss of synapses/higher pTau burden, thus a significant decrease in hippocampal NAA/Cr ratios may constitute a spectral marker of early neurodegeneration in young urbanites. Decreases in NAA/Cr correlate well with cognitive function, behavioral symptoms, and dementia severity; thus, since the progression of AD starts decades before clinical diagnosis, our findings support the hypothesis that under chronic exposures to fine particulate matter and ozone above the standards, neurodegenerative processes start in childhood and APOE β4 carriers are at higher risk. Gene and environmental factors are critical in the development of AD and the identification and neuroprotection of young urbanites at high risk must become a public health priority.
- Air Pollution
- NAA/Cr ratio
- body mass index
- magnetic resonance spectroscopy