Environmental Neurotoxins Found To Cause Alzheimer-Like Brain Tangles

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MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sandra Anne Banack

Institute for Ethnomedicine
Jackson Hole, WY

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Villagers from the island of Guam had 50-100x the incidence rates of ALS when compared with Western populations. Although the disease on Guam was first identified as ALS it is now known as ALS/PDC because it can also have clinical features of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. The pathological features of this disease include brain tangles and amyloid plaques that are also the diagnostic features of Alzheimer’s disease. We found that an environmental neurotoxin causes brain tangles and amyloid deposits in an animal model. This is the first time that brain tangles, known technically as neurofibrillary tangles, have been created in an animal model along with the amyloid deposits. The animal model can be used to screen potential drugs for Alzheimer’s and potentially other neurodegenerative diseases quicker and at a fraction of the cost and risk of current methods using human subjects. In addition, we found that L-serine significantly reduced the formation of brain tangles exposed to this toxin.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: These results provide new hope for curing neurodegenerative diseases. L-serine has already undergone an FDA-approved human clinical Phase I trial for ALS and is now ready to be taken through a Phase II trial, with only the funding needed ($2.5 Million). We are also pursuing a Phase I trial for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Early-stage Alzheimer’s disease with L-serine. The results of these trials will determine if L-serine is both safe and efficacious. We do 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. However, this new animal model may prove useful in evaluating other potential new Alzheimer’s drugs.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: FDA-approved human clinical trials are needed to determine if L-serine can slow the progression of neurodegenerative disease. In addition, much research is needed to understand how BMAA causes brain tangles and amyloid deposits as this will lead to the discovery of new drugs that may cure these devastating diseases.

MedicalResearch: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This research takes us a giant step forward in understanding the cause of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. BMAA is made by cyanobacteria and this research points out the important link between human health and environmental health. Cleaning and protecting our waterways is something we can focus on now while further research is being conducted.


Dietary exposure to an environmental toxin triggers neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid deposits in the brain

Paul Alan Cox, David A. Davis, Deborah C. Mash, James S. Metcalf, Sandra Anne Banack
Published 20 January 2016.DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2397
The Royal Society Proceedings B

Sandra Anne Banack (2016). Environmental Neurotoxins Found To Cause Alzheimer-Like Brain Tangles

More on Alzheimer’s Disease on MedicalResearch.com