The cyanobacterial toxin BMAA and Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS)

16 August 2013

Droplets has previously posted articles on the possible role of the algal toxin, BMAA, as a cause of the frightening and fatal Lou Gehrig’s Disease – also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative motor neuron disease.  I frequently get asked for updates on this issue.  Well, here’s one.

Just a few days ago, a very informative review of current research and thinking emerged from an Italian research group at the  Second University of Naples, with their paper being made available on the internet (link).  I have placed the abstract of their work below for those who may not wish to download the whole paper – published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (Trojsi, F.; Monsurrò, M.R.; Tedeschi, G. Exposure to Environmental Toxicants and Pathogenesis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: State of the Art and Research Perspectives. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 201314, 15286-15311.):

Abstract: There is a broad scientific consensus that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neuromuscular disease, is caused by gene-environment interactions. In fact, given that only about 10% of all ALS diagnosis has a genetic basis, gene-environmental interaction may give account for the remaining percentage of cases. However, relatively little attention has been paid to environmental and lifestyle factors that may trigger the cascade of motor neuron degeneration leading to ALS, although exposure to chemicals—including lead and pesticides—agricultural environments, smoking, intense physical activity, trauma and electromagnetic fields have been associated with an increased risk of ALS. This review provides an overview of our current knowledge of potential toxic etiologies of ALS with emphasis on the role of cyanobacteria, heavy metals and pesticides as potential risk factors for developing ALS. We will summarize the most recent evidence from epidemiological studies and experimental findings from animal and cellular models, revealing that potential causal links between environmental toxicants and ALS pathogenesis have not been fully ascertained, thus justifying the need for further research.

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