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Exposure to environmental toxin ups Alzheimer’s risk

Maria Rosa, 70, a patient with Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia, and former business administrator, poses for a photograph inside the Alzheimer Foundation in Mexico city, April 19, 2012. Alzheimer's is a progressive, degenerative disease that robs people of memory, reasoning and the ability to communicate. About 24 million people worldwide have the disease, according to the World Health Organization. In Mexico, 600,000 Mexicans out of 9 million adults over the age 60 suffer from Alzheimer's, according to the Institute of Geriatrics (INGER). Picture taken April 19, 2012. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido (MEXICO - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY)
Maria Rosa, 70, a patient with Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia, and former business administrator, poses for a photograph inside the Alzheimer Foundation in Mexico city, April 19, 2012. Alzheimer's is a progressive, degenerative disease that robs people of memory, reasoning and the ability to communicate. About 24 million people worldwide have the disease, according to the World Health Organization. In Mexico, 600,000 Mexicans out of 9 million adults over the age 60 suffer from Alzheimer's, according to the Institute of Geriatrics (INGER). Picture taken April 19, 2012. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido (MEXICO - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY)

Washington: A down-side of living in a polluted city is its infamous smog, which is a factor in respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and COPD. Now, a new study has revealed a link between exposure to air pollution and Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative illnesses.

The study indicates that chronic exposure to an environmental toxin may increase risk of neurodegenerative illness. Conducted by scientists at the Institute for EthnoMedicine, a non-profit medical research organization, and the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank, the study provides a foundation for future research in Alzheimer’s disease, ALS and Parkinson’s disease.

Brain tangles and amyloid deposits are the hallmarks of both Alzheimer’s disease and an unusual illness suffered by Chamorro villagers on the Pacific Island of Guam, whose diet is contaminated by the environmental toxin BMAA. Pacific Islanders with this unusual condition also suffer from dementia and symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease, ALS and Parkinson’s disease.

The cause of neurodegenerative disease remains largely unknown, and the role of environmental factors in these illnesses is poorly understood. However, scientists have suspected a link between BMAA, a neurotoxin found in some harmful algal blooms, and neurodegenerative illness.

The findings show that chronic exposure to BMAA can trigger Alzheimer’s-like brain tangles and amyloid deposits, said lead author Paul Alan Cox, adding that this is the first time researchers have been able to successfully produce brain tangles and amyloid deposits in an animal model through exposure to an environmental toxin.

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (ANI)

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