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Local scientists discover possible cause and prevention for Alzheimer’s

Local scientists discover possible cause and prevention for Alzheimer’s

(Jackson, Wyo.) - Yesterday, the Jackson-based Institute for EthnoMedicine released a study that identifies a possible cause as well as a possible prevention for neurodegenerative illnesses, or diseases the affect the human brain like Alzheimer’s disease, ALS and Parkinson’s disease. The study, which was published yesterday in the science journal *Proceedings of the Royal Society B, *indicates that chronic exposure to an environmental toxin may increase risk of neurodegenerative illness. In a release issued today, the organization explains that brain tangles and amyloid deposits are the hallmarks of both Alzheimer’s disease and an unusual illness suffered by Chamorro villagers on the Pacific Island of Guam, whose diet is contaminated by the environmental toxin BMAA. Pacific Islanders with this unusual condition also suffer from dementia and symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease, ALS and Parkinson’s disease. [image: Inline image 1] *Screenshot of the Institute for EthnoMedicine from the video. Pitchengine Communities* "The cause of neurodegenerative disease remains largely unknown, and the role of environmental factors in these illnesses is poorly understood," states the release. "However, scientists have suspected a link between BMAA, a neurotoxin found in some harmful algal blooms, and neurodegenerative illness." To test their theory, the scientists with the Institute for EthnoMedicine conducted two experiments on vervet monkeys. In the first experiment, the monkeys were fed BMAA (the toxin) and developed the neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid deposits similar to Pacific Islanders who died from the disease. Monkeys fed equal amounts of L-BMAA and the dietary amino acid L-serine had a reduced density of tangles, and the monkeys fed a placebo dose did not develop neurologic issues. “Our findings show that chronic exposure to BMAA can trigger Alzheimer’s-like brain tangles and amyloid deposits,” said Paul Alan Cox, Ph.D., an ethnobotanist at the Institute for EthnoMedicine and lead author of the study. “As far as we are aware, this is the first time researchers have been able to successfully produce brain tangles and amyloid deposits in an animal model through exposure to an environmental toxin.” After 140 days, tangles and amyloid deposits were found in the brain tissues of all of the monkeys who consumed BMAA. However, there was a significant reduction in the density of tangles in those that consumed equal amounts of L-serine. Cox does not advocate patients taking L-serine at this time. "The FDA has not approved its use for the treatment of neurodegenerative illness, and much more research is needed," he said. "However, this new animal model may prove useful in evaluating other potential new Alzheimer's drugs." The Institute has sponsored FDA-approved human clinical trials to study the effects of the naturally-occurring amino acid L-serine in people with ALS, and is working with Dartmouth Medical School to begin a Phase I human clinical trial of L-serine for patients diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or early stage Alzheimer's disease. Learn more about how these scientists developed the study in this video. Co-authors of the study include David Davis, Ph.D. of the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank, James Metcalf, Ph.D., and Sandra Banack, Ph.D., at the Institute for EthnoMedicine. *Feature Photo: Screenshot of the Institute for EthnoMedicine from the video. Pitchengine Communities* #buckrail #news