The Monitor Daily (U.S.) – Environmental neurotoxin is linked to neurodegenerative diseases in a breakthrough study. Conducted by researchers with the Institute for EthnoMedicine and the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank, the study is published in the Proceeding of the Royal Society B journal.
According to the findings of the study, the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) may be triggered by an environmental neurotoxin called BMAA. While a number of environmental settings could imply exposure to this environmental neurotoxin, the start line of the study is pinpointed to the Guam Island.
Paul Alan Cox, author of the study and ethnobotanist travelled to the Pacific island in the 1990s accompanied by his colleagues. A mysterious phenomenon was observed on the Guam island. The Chamorro people had a high incidence rate for neurodegenerative diseases. Interviews and analyses were conducted. However, no clue surfaced as to what may be causing the Chamorro people to be the target of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The analyses conducted at the time didn’t show any genetic link. The neurodegenerative diseases weren’t passed on from generation to generation. Other communities on the Guam island weren’t affected to the same degree. At the same time, outsiders welcomed in the Chamorro community also seemed to develop symptoms after a while.
It became clear that the silent agent was hiding in the local environment. Everything was placed under scrutiny. The first clue was offered by the cycad seeds, a nourishing snack for flying foxes and a nutritious resource for the Chamorro people. Cycad seeds are brimming with the BMAA neurotoxin.
The BMAA neurotoxin is also present where algae blooms are flourishing, triggering the expansion of cyanobacteria. Thus, the main clues were out in the open. While the causality wasn’t proved at the time, the new study showed that the environmental neurotoxin is linked to neurodegenerative diseases.
To analyse the link between neurodenerative diseases and the BMAA neurotoxin, the research team fed vervet monkeys with fruits injected with the BMAA neurotoxin. At the same time, some of the vervet monkey were administered a dose of the amino acid L-serine, naturally produced in our bodies.
Neurodegenerative diseases have a number of common features. Among them, amyloid deposits and brain tangles are common to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and others. After 140 days of being fed the BMAA neurotoxin-injected fruit, the vervet monkey developed both amyloid deposits and brain tangles. Those which were fed the amino acid L-serine had fewer of these hallmarks. Nonetheless, the breakthrough study pinpointed how the BMAA environmental neurotoxin is linked to neurodegenerative diseases.
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