Researchers have found a possible link between Parkinson’s disease and a gene impacted by a neurotoxin found in blue-green algae that may increase our understanding of the disease. The discovery was made by scientist Dr. Jacob Gratten of the University of Queensland and scientist and molecular bioscience geneticist, Professor Peter Visscher.
Looking for a link
“We looked for a link between Parkinson’s and changes in the genome that control how genes are turned on and off because these changes can be influenced by the environment,” Gratten said.
“We found a gene, previously not known to be linked to Parkinson’s, which displayed reduced activity in people with the disease.
“This same gene is known to be targeted by a blue-green algae neurotoxin.”
Gratten added that while the study did not produce a direct link with Parkinson’s, blue-green algae has been associated with other neurodegenerative diseases. Gratten and his colleagues found that neurotoxins released by blue-green algae reduce cellular activity in a gene that leads to higher oxidative stress levels in nerve cells associated with Parkinson’s disease.
“This gives us confidence that we’re moving in the right direction towards understanding the environmental causes of Parkinson’s disease,” Gratten said.
“This disease destroys lives and devastates families, so we’re determined to unlock the mystery behind Parkinson’s,” added Visscher.
“More work is needed to confirm our findings, and to explore other possible explanations for the link between this gene and Parkinson’s disease, such as pesticides.”
Blue-green algae can be found in inland waterways and are dangerous to all who come into contact with them.
The study was published in Nature Communications.