University of Rochester scientists investigating the link between PCBs, pesticides and Parkinson’s disease demonstrated new and intricate reactions that occur in certain brain cells, making them more vulnerable to injury after exposures.
In two papers published in the journal NeuroToxicology (Dec. 2004 and Feb. 2005), the group describes how polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) disrupt dopamine neurons, which are the cells that degenerate during the course of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers also show that low levels of maneb, a fungicide commonly used in farming, can injure the antioxidant system in those same types of cells. Environmental contaminants might make dopamine cells more vulnerable to damage from normal aging, infection, or subsequent exposure to pollutants, researchers say.
The investigation is part of a nationwide race to better understand every aspect of Parkinson’s disease, which affects up to 1 million Americans. It is a progressive neurological disorder that occurs when certain nerve cells in the substantia nigra region of the brain die or can no longer produce the brain chemical dopamine. A lack of dopamine is what causes patients to experience tremors, stiffness in the limbs and trunk, and impaired movement or balance.
Leslie Orr | EurekAlert!
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