Elucidating the mechanism of cellular uptake and removal
Due to the critical importance of finding neurotoxins in common environments, specific protocols have been developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for testing and determining neurotoxic effects of compounds (USEPA 1998).
In vitro systems, however, have presented problems as it has been difficult to properly replicate the complexities of the nervous system, such as the interactions between supporting astrocytes and neurons in creating the BBB.In part, neurotoxins have been part of human history because of the fragile and susceptible nature of the nervous system, making it highly prone to disruption.The nervous tissue found in the brain, spinal cord, and periphery comprises an extraordinarily complex biological system that largely defines many of the unique traits of individuals.In modern times, scientists and physicians have been presented with the challenge of identifying and treating neurotoxins, which has resulted in a growing interest in both neurotoxicology research and clinical studies.Though clinical neurotoxicology is largely a burgeoning field, extensive inroads have been made in the identification of many environmental neurotoxins leading to the classification of 750 to 1000 known potentially neurotoxic compounds.As the brain requires nutrient entry and waste removal, it is perfused by blood flow.
Blood can carry a number of ingested toxins, however, which would induce significant neuron death if they reach nervous tissue.
Support has been shown for a number of treatments aimed at attenuating neurotoxin-mediated injury, such as antioxidant Exposure to neurotoxins in society is not new, as civilizations have been exposed to neurologically destructive compounds for thousands of years.
One notable example is the possible significant lead exposure during the Roman Empire resulting from the development of extensive plumbing networks and the habit of boiling vinegared wine in lead pans to sweeten it, the process generating lead acetate, known as "sugar of lead".
Additionally, biochemical mechanisms have become more widely used in neurotoxin testing, such that compounds can be screened for sufficiency to induce cell mechanism interference, like the inhibition of acetylcholinesterase capacity of organophosphates (includes DDT and sarin gas).
Though methods of determining neurotoxicity still require significant development, the identification of deleterious compounds and toxin exposure symptoms has undergone significant improvement.
Thus, protective cells termed astrocytes surround the capillaries in the brain and absorb nutrients from the blood and subsequently transport them to the neurons, effectively isolating the brain from a number of potential chemical insults.