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Study Explores Link Between Alzheimer's and Nanoparticles

Professor Vyvyan Howard and Dr Christian Holscher are leading research into whether engineered nanoparticles can induce neurodegenerative disease.

They are based at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in Coleraine.

They have been awarded £350,000 from the European Union to carry out investigations over three years.

Professor Howard said they would examine if there was a significant risk.

"The overall science and technology objective of this programme is to determine if engineered nanoparticles could constitute a significant neuro-toxicological risk to humans for two diseases - Alzheimer's and Parkinson's," he said.

Their research is part of a worldwide project call NeuroNano which includes European academic partners at the universities of Dublin, Cork, Edinburgh and Munich.

In America, the universities of California, Rochester and Rice and in Japan the National Institute of Materials Science.

A nanoparticle measures between 1 and 100 nanometres. A nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre.

The experts will be looking at nanoparticles present in chemicals found in sunscreens and an additive in some diesel fuels - titanium dioxide and cerium oxide - and their connection to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. 

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