World Trade Center Site Exposure Duration Is Associated with Hippocampal and Cerebral White Matter Neuroinflammation

Chuan Huang, Minos Kritikos, Mario Serrano Sosa, Thomas Hagan, Alan Domkan, Jaymie Meliker, Alison C. Pellecchia, Stephanie Santiago-Michels, Melissa A. Carr, Roman Kotov, Megan Horton, Sam Gandy, Mary Sano, Evelyn J. Bromet, Roberto G. Lucchini, Sean A.P. Clouston, Benjamin J. Luft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Responders to the World Trade Center (WTC) attacks on 9/11/2001 inhaled toxic dust and experienced severe trauma for a prolonged period. Studies report that WTC site exposure duration is associated with peripheral inflammation and risk for developing early-onset dementia (EOD). Free Water Fraction (FWF) can serve as a biomarker for neuroinflammation by measuring in vivo movement of free water across neurons. The present case-controlled study aimed to examine associations between WTC site exposure duration as well as EOD status with increased hippocampal and cerebral neuroinflammation. Ninety-nine WTC responders (mean age of 56) were recruited between 2017 and 2019 (N = 48 with EOD and 51 cognitively unimpaired). Participants were matched on age, sex, occupation, race, education, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) status. Participants underwent neuroimaging using diffusion tensor imaging protocols for FWF extraction. Region of interest (ROI) analysis and correlational tractography explored topographical distributions of FWF associations. Apolipoprotein-e4 allele (APOEε4) status was available for most responders (N = 91). Hippocampal FWF was significantly associated with WTC site exposure duration (r = 0.30, p = 0.003), as was cerebral white matter FWF (r = 0.20, p = 0.044). ROI analysis and correlational tractography identified regions within the limbic, frontal, and temporal lobes. Hippocampal FWF and its association with WTC exposure duration were highest when the APOEε4 allele was present (r = 0.48, p = 0.039). Our findings demonstrate that prolonged WTC site exposure is associated with increased hippocampal and cerebral white matter neuroinflammation in WTC responders, possibly exacerbated by possession of the APOEε4 allele.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-170
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Cognitive impairment
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Early-onset dementia
  • Exposure
  • Free water fraction
  • Neuroinflammation
  • World Trade Center


Dive into the research topics of 'World Trade Center Site Exposure Duration Is Associated with Hippocampal and Cerebral White Matter Neuroinflammation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this