Environmental Toxin May Increase Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

A collaboration between researchers at the Institute for EthnoMedicine and the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank revealed that chronic exposure to an environmental toxin has the potential to increase the risk for neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. The research paper, "Dietary exposure to an environmental toxin triggers neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid deposits in the brain," was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) and β-amyloid plaques in the brain are hallmarks of several neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, along with an unusual illness suffered by the Chamorro villagers on the Pacific island of Guam. The villagers often have symptoms related to other neurological diseases, such as dementia. The disorder pathogenesis, called Guamanian amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/Parkinsonism dementia complex (ALS/PDC), is poorly understood, especially the relevance of environmental factors, another trait common with Alzheimer’s. Researchers studied a cyanobacterial toxin present in the traditional Chamorro diet, called BMAA (β-N-methylamino-L-alanine), of which scientists have long suspected to be connected with the neurodegeneration observed in the population and the illnesses. Through experiments conducted on vervet monkeys, researchers found that chronic dietary exposure to this toxin leads to development of neuropathology. For 140 days a group of vervets was fed fruit dosed with BMAA, developing n
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