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Researchers demonstrate the link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease

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Researchers demonstrate the link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease

Although it was assumed for many years  that between Parkinson’s disease and pesticides is a link, only now neuroscientists at UCLA have been able to demonstrate this connection. They knew that some common chemicals in Central California, such as paraquat, maneb and ziram, increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, and this was observed not only in farmers, but also in residents of the area who have inhaled these particles.

Now investigators at UCLA have made another discovery: it seems that Parkinson’s disease is related to a fourth chemical, a substance called benomyl, whose effects persist even after 10 years. Moreover, according to Jeff Bronstein, senior author of the study and a professor of neurology at UCLA, and his colleagues, it seems that the harmful effects triggered by benomyl occur even in people who have Parkinson’s but have not been exposed to pesticides.

Parkinson's disease

Parkinson’s disease

It seems that benomyl triggers a series of events leading to Parkinson’s disease onset. It is assumed that the chemical interferes with an enzyme called ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase). In this way, aldehyde dehydrogenase can not prevent accumulation of DOPAL, a toxic substance that has harmful effect on neurons and which greatly increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Benomyl is a substance that has been widely used in the U.S. until it was banned in 2001 because it was found to have toxic effects on health. It seems that this toxic can cause brain malformations, tumors of the liver, reproductive abnormalities, etc.. Furthermore, the destructive effect of benomyl on dopaminergic neurons has been shown in cell culture experiments.

Now neuroscientists at UCLA believe that this cascade of events occurs in all patients with Parkinson’s disease. If they were create a drug to protect aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme activity, they could treat or prevent Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by walking and talking with difficulty, spasticity, tremors etc.. In other words, it greatly affects the patient’s quality of life and although there are some treatments available these fail to cure the disease. In Parkinson’s disease there is degeneration of neurons in the substantia nigra, called dopamine neurons. Unfortunately, when symptoms begin to appear, most of the neurons are already destroyed and drugs can only improve to a small extent the symptoms.

As stated the study’s first author, Arthur G. Fitzmaurice, a postdoctoral scholar in Bronstein’s laboratory, only a small fraction of cases of Parkinson’s are due to heredity. Therefore, environmental factors have an important role.