[USA] Toxic algae blooms could be linked to a brain disease similar to Alzheimer’s, according to a new study published by researchers at the University of Miami.
Toxic algae blooms could be linked to a brain disease similar to Alzheimer’s, according to a new study published by researchers at the University of Miami.
The study, which was published in the PLOS One journal Wednesday, focused on a cyanobacterial neurotoxin known as BMAA.
The toxin was found in the brain tissue of dolphins that displayed symptoms of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, which is leading researchers to believe that there is a direct connection.
The researchers studied samples of brain tissue from 14 dolphins that washed up on beaches in Florida, as well as in Massachusetts off Cape Cod.
The seven Florida dolphins that were studied were found in areas with toxic recurring algal blooms – the Atlantic Ocean, the Banana River, the Indian River Lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico.
The dolphin that was found in the Gulf of Mexico had the highest amount of BMAA, according to David Davis, a research assistant and professor of neurology at UM who worked on the study.
BMAA was found in 13 of the 14 dolphins tested, and the dolphins that were studied in Florida had an amount of BMAA almost three-times higher than the dolphins in Massachusetts.
“Seeing the toxins in high amounts is very scary,” Davis said.
BMAA has been linked to “several neurodegenerative diseases,” according to the study.
“These animals also had lesions on their brain that were similar to individuals with dementia,” Davis said.
The study implied that the combination of methylmercury and BMAA is suggested as a link to dementia. Davis said that the combo is potentially more harmful than BMAA on its own.
“The accumulation over time causes a mis-folding of proteins, so when you combine the two together, the effects of BMAA are amplified,” Davis said. “[For example,] if you have 100 milligrams of BMAA and if you add two milligrams of mercury, you get five times that effect, or two times,” Davis said.
Davis said he found this particularly fascinating.
“Having both the presence of a neurotoxin and also an observation of lesions in the brain is very striking,” Davis said. “It causes us to really think of ocean health and quality.”
Since the toxin negatively impacted apex predators like dolphins, humans could also be at risk. In fact, another UM study found that people may have already been impacted.
This study, which was published in 2009, found that Floridians who died of diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS had high levels of BMAA in their brain tissue.
“The occurrence of BMAA in North American ALS and AD patients suggests the possibility of a gene/environment interaction,” the study read.
Davis and his team plan on continuing this research, emphasizing the connection between mercury and BMAA, and will publish another paper with their findings.
View original article at: Dolphin found dead in Gulf from blue green algae had signs of Alzheimer’s
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