Low-level Pesticide Exposure Drastically Increases Risk of Parkinson’s Disease
According to a study conducted by the University of Guelph, low-level exposure to pesticides such as paraquat and maneb disturb human cells in a similar way that the mutations that cause Parkinson’s disease disturb human cells. The study also suggests that people with a predisposition for Parkinson’s disease significantly increase the likelihood of developing the disease if exposed to agrochemicals such as paraquat and maneb. According to the EPA, there have been several published studies showing a connection between paraquat exposure and higher risks of Parkinson’s disease.
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The University of Guelph study was initiated to identify why exposure to certain pesticides increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease in some people. Other similar studies identified a relationship between paraquat and maneb with an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
University of Guelph Professor Scott Ryan is a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. Professor Ryan concluded that when people are exposed to pesticides such as paraquat and maneb, the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease is 250% higher.
Paraquat is an agrochemical that is used on crops during the early development process, and maneb is used to prevent crops from post-harvest spoiling.
The study results were published in the journal Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The study collected stem cells from individuals who have Parkinson’s disease caused by a gene mutation known as synuclein. Synuclein is positively connected with an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease. The study also collected normal embryonic stem cells that were gene-edited to heighten a Parkinson’s associated mutation.
The study was a ground-breaking study because all other previous studies relied on the use of animal subjects. This study was the first to examine the mutations occurring inside human cells.
In Professor Ryan’s study, the two groups of stem cells were grown into dopamine-producing neurons. These are the particular neurons that become mutated and cause Parkinson’s disease. The lab-grown dopamine-producing neurons were then exposed to the two agrochemicals, paraquat and maneb.
The researchers noticed that when the dopamine-producing neuron cells were exposed to the agrochemicals, the energy-producing mitochondria could not move inside the cell and function properly. The dopamine-producing neurons were depleted of all necessary energy.
The study then experimented with the neurons harvested from the Parkinson’s patients. These neuron cells already had a genetic risk factor for Parkinson’s disease. The researchers observed that the mitochondria damage occurred at doses below the EPA’s reported lowest observed effect level. The findings showed that people who have a genetic predisposition for Parkinson’s disease are more sensitive to agrochemicals, as previously believed. Therefore, people with a genetic predisposition for Parkinson’s disease and who live near agricultural areas are at a much higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Professor Ryan also urges the EPA and other governmental agencies to reassess the current acceptable exposure levels for paraquat and maneb. He also stated that some people are more susceptible to developing Parkinson’s disease and do not even know. Therefore, the safety standards of paraquat and maneb must be revised to protect the most vulnerable.
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Materials provided by University of Guelph. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
- Morgan G. Stykel, Kayla Humphries, Mathew P. Kirby, Chris Czaniecki, Tinya Wang, Tammy Ryan, Vladimir Bamm, Scott D. Ryan. Nitration of microtubules blocks axonal mitochondrial transport in a human pluripotent stem cell model of Parkinson’s disease. The FASEB Journal, 2018; fj.201700759RR DOI: 1096/fj.201700759RR
University of Guelph. “Study uncovers cause of pesticide exposure, Parkinson’s link: Low-level exposure to the pesticides disrupts cells in a way that mimics the effects of mutations known to cause Parkinson’s disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 May 2018. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180523133158.htm >.
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