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J Environ Monit. 2009 May;11(5):939-54. doi: 10.1039/b817817h. Epub 2009 Mar 19.

JEM spotlight: metal speciation related to neurotoxicity in humans.

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Helmholtz Zentrum M√ľnchen, Institute of Ecological Chemistry, 85764, Neuherberg, Germany.


Improved living conditions have led to a steady increase in the life expectancy of humans in most countries. However, this is accompanied by an increased probability of suffering from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease. Unfortunately, the therapeutic possibilities for curing these diseases are very limited up to now. Many studies indicate that a variety of environmental factors contribute to the initiation and promotion of neurodegenerative diseases. For example, the role of metal exposure and disturbance of metal homeostasis in the brain is discussed in this respect. However, most studies focus on the neurological and toxicological aspects but not on a detailed characterisation of the species of the involved metals. Therefore, this review summarizes the neurotoxic effects of selected metals on humans and focuses on contributions from trace element speciation analysis with relevance to neuroscientific research. In spite of the advance in instrumentation and methodology of speciation analysis there are few applications for matrices like cerebrospinal fluid which is due to limited access to these samples and analytical challenges caused by matrix interferences, low concentrations and limited stability of many trace element species of interest. The most relevant neurotoxic metals aluminium, lead, manganese and mercury are reviewed in detail while further metals like cadmium, arsenic, bismuth and tin are briefly discussed. Current results indicate that knowledge on trace element speciation can contribute to a better understanding of the transport of metals across the neural barriers and potentially of their role in diseased human brains.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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