Common Agricultural Chemicals Shown to Change Mice Neurons in Ways Similar to Alzheimer’s Disease

Common Agricultural Chemicals Shown to Change Mice Neurons in Ways Similar to Alzheimer’s Disease
Researchers have identified a group of agricultural chemicals — pesticides and fungicides — that constitute environmental risk factors for neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. A recent study found that a number of these chemicals produce gene expression changes in mouse neurons similar to those observed in people with autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions. The paper, “Identification of chemicals that mimic transcriptional changes associated with autism, brain aging and neurodegeneration,” was published in Nature Communications. Retrospective epidemiological studies have linked a number of environmental factors, such as pesticides used in agriculture, to risks of autism and neurodegenerative disease. Such chemicals include pyraclostrobin, which has been found in potentially dangerous levels in food in a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the pesticide rotenone, which has been associated with Parkinson’s disease risk in both animal experiments and human epidemiological studies, and the fungicides trifloxystrobin and picoxystrobin, shown to impair motor activity in rats. Researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine exposed cultures of mouse neurons to about 300 different chemicals commonly found in the environment and food, and proceeded to sequence RNA extracted from animals' neurons to assess gene expression profiles of exposed brain cells. These experiments allowed researchers to identify which chemicals caused changes in gene expression. This included rotenone and certain fungicides, including pyraclostrobin,
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