Parkinson's disease linked to major gene targeted by blue-green algae toxin: Aussie scientists

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-16 19:14:14|Editor: zyl
Video PlayerClose

SYDNEY, March 16 (Xinhua) -- A link between Parkinson's disease and a gene targeted by blue-green algae toxin points to better understanding of risk factors behind the major degenerative disorder, according to the latest Australian research.

"We looked for a link between Parkinson's and changes in the human genome that control how genes are turned on and off, because these changes can be influenced by the environment," researcher Jacob Gratten said in a University of Queensland statement on Monday.

"We found a gene, previously not known to be linked to Parkinson's, which displayed reduced activity in people with the disease," he said.

"This same gene is known to be targeted by a blue-green algae neurotoxin."

Blue-green algae is found in inland waterways and poses a health risk to people, domestic animals and stock that come into contact with the toxic algal blooms, according to the researchers. Their findings, published in scientific journal Nature Communications, involved more than a decade of analysis.

Neurotoxins released by blue-green algae reduce activity of the gene identified in the study, with the researchers predicting the process may lead to higher oxidative stress levels in nerve cells associated with Parkinson's disease, which can result in cell death.

Gratten said that while the study does not provide a direct link with Parkinson's, blue-green algae had previously been associated with other neurodegenerative diseases such as motor neurone disease.

"This gives us confidence that we're moving in the right direction towards understanding the environmental causes of Parkinson's disease," he said.

Parkinson's disease affects one in 100 people aged over 60 and that the figure is projected to double by 2040 as the population ages, university geneticist Peter Visscher said.

"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," he said.