Cellular mechanisms of impaired neurodevelopment following early life exposure to air pollution

Dr Claire Thornton (primary)
Comparative Biomedical Sciences
Royal Veterinary College
Prof Serena Counsell (secondary)
Perinatal Imaging and Health
King’s College London


UNICEF estimates that, world-wide, over 100 million infants are exposed to levels of pollution that exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended limits. London is recognised as one of the worst areas for air pollution in the UK, with levels of exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide regularly exceeding WHO limits. There is growing concern regarding the effect of exposure during gestation and in infancy.

The overarching aim of this interdisciplinary project is to define mechanisms targeted by air pollution which impact brain development, by integrating neurocellular homeostasis, neuroinflammation, human neuroimaging and environmental data.


WHO. Ambient Air Pollution—a Major Threat to Health and Climate. World Health Organization, 2019 https://www.who.int/airpollution/ambient/en/
Grandjean P and Landrigan PJ (2014) Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity Lancet Neurol 13(3) 330-8
Breton CV et al (2019) Effects of air pollution on mitochondrial function, mitochondrial DNA methylation, and mitochondrial peptide expression Mitochondrion 46 22-9
Fu P et al (2019) The association between PM2.5 exposure and neurological disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis Sci Total Environ 655 1240-48
Bilbo SD et al (2018) Beyond infection – Maternal immune activation by environmental factors, microglial development, and relevance for autism spectrum disorders Exp Neurol 299(Pt A) 241-51

Animal disease, health and welfare
Area of Biology
Cell BiologyNeurobiology
Techniques & Approaches
BiochemistryImage ProcessingMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologyMolecular Biology