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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 161687, 16 pages
Review Article

Early Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease Pathology in Urban Children: Friend versus Foe Responses—It Is Time to Face the Evidence

1Center for Structural and Functional Neurosciences, The University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Skaggs Building 287, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
2Departamento de Investigación, Hospital Central Militar, Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional, 11649 México, DF, Mexico
3Departamentos de Radiología y Patología Experimental, Instituto Nacional de Pediatria, 04530 México, DF, Mexico
4Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 04510 México, DF, Mexico

Received 7 November 2012; Revised 1 January 2013; Accepted 1 January 2013

Academic Editor: Tim Nawrot

Copyright © 2013 Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Chronic exposure to particulate matter air pollution is known to cause inflammation leading to respiratory- and cardiovascular-related sickness and death. Mexico City Metropolitan Area children exhibit an early brain imbalance in genes involved in oxidative stress, inflammation, and innate and adaptive immune responses. Early dysregulated neuroinflammation, brain microvascular damage, production of potent vasoconstrictors, and perturbations in the integrity of the neurovascular unit likely contribute to progressive neurodegenerative processes. The accumulation of misfolded proteins coincides with the anatomical distribution observed in the early stages of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's diseases. We contend misfolding of hyperphosphorylated tau (HPπ), alpha-synuclein, and beta-amyloid could represent a compensatory early protective response to the sustained systemic and brain inflammation. However, we favor the view that the chronic systemic and brain dysregulated inflammation and the diffuse vascular damage contribute to the establishment of neurodegenerative processes with childhood clinical manifestations. Friend turns Foe early; therefore, implementation of neuroprotective measures to ameliorate or stop the inflammatory and neurodegenerative processes is warranted in exposed children. Epidemiological, cognitive, structural, and functional neuroimaging and mechanistic studies into the association between air pollution exposures and the development of neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in children are of pressing importance for public health.