Cyanobacteria Toxin May be Linked to Neurodegenerative Diseases

A toxic molecule associated with cyanobacteria and potentially found in drinking water has been linked by a pair of researchers to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. As reported in Miller-McClune, an on line magazine, botanist Paul Cox and biologist Sandra Banack are leading a group of scientists researching the effects of the toxic molecule beta-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA). This compound is present in cyanobacteria, which often blooms in water used as a drinking water source. Recent years have seen increases in “blue-green algae” blooms possibly triggered by climate change and increased nutrients in water bodies. Their studies indicate that as the consumption of BMAA increases in humans, so does the incidence of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The work of Banack, Cox, and their team has met with some resistance from the scientific community, where research has focused on genetics as the cause of these neurodegenerative diseases. However, not all cases of these diseases have the genetic link and those who believe there is also an environmental component are encouraged by this research. Additional research shows how BMAA could accumulate in nerve cells, providing more scientific backing for the influence of environmental factors in these diseases.

Additional information and links to related reports are included in the original article which is available in Miller-McClune.