Research has shown that the brain is particularly vulnerable to carbon monoxide, with most CO toxicity studies focused on high-level and acute exposure. Very little is known about the impact of low doses encountered by people on a daily basis from air pollution and day-to-day routines.
The four-year study, which has been funded by the CO Research Trust, aims to address the knowledge gap and determine how low-level CO affects the structure and function of the brain from embryo to adulthood.
It is hoped the findings will provide a better understanding of how low-level CO causes and contributes to disease, and the data generated will help raise awareness, inform support and prevention strategies, and identify potential routes for treatment.
The project team is led by Dr Mari Herigstad, senior lecturer in biosciences and healthcare at Sheffield Hallam University, and includes Marysia Placzek, professor of developmental neurobiology at University of Sheffield, Dr Chris Morris, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University, as well as Dr Prachi Stafford and Dr Liam Ridge from Sheffield Hallam University.
Dr Mari Herigstad said: "We are truly excited about this opportunity to conduct a large-scale project on low-level CO and its impact on the brain. This research area is a priority for us, and I believe the project will significantly further our understanding of how low-level CO can cause or contribute to pathophysiology and affect public health."
Adrian McConnell, chief executive of the CO Research Trust, said: “We are truly excited about this opportunity to conduct a large-scale project on low-level CO and its impact on the brain. This research area is a priority for us, and I believe the project will significantly further our understanding of how low-level CO can cause or contribute to pathophysiology and affect public health.”
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that has been shown to be harmful to health when inhaled. It can lead to cognitive and neuropsychiatric problems, and potentially contribute to diseases including stroke and dementia.
Vulnerability to CO changes with age, with embryos particularly at risk with low-level carbon monoxide linked to birth defects.
The study will use 3D human tissue and an in vivo model system to reveal how CO exposure affects more complex interactions, as well as healthy adult volunteers to understand how CO directly impacts the brain.
It is the latest study from Sheffield Hallam University’s Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre, which has recently developed a pioneering non-invasive method for detecting breast cancer from fingerprints with 98% accuracy.
The research will be undertaken in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam's Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, based at Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, and its newly established Sheffield Multimodal Imaging Centre.