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2006 Grant - Papapetropoulos
Cyanobacterial Toxin (BMAA) in Brain Tissue and Hair of Alzheimer's Disease Patients
Spiridon Papapetropoulos, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Miami
2006 New Investigator Research Grant
Scientists have observed the tendency of Chamorro Indians of Guam to develop a brain disorder called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/Parkinsonism-dementia complex (ALS/PDC). This disorder produces symptoms of dementia similar to that of Alzheimer's disease. It also produces motor symptoms similar to those found in other brain diseases, including Parkinson's disease and, rarely, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Recent studies of Chamorro dietary habits find high concentrations of the amino acid beta-n-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA). Other studies report high concen-trations of BMAA in the brains of some people with Alzheimer's disease.
Spiridon Papapetropoulos, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues hypothesize that BMAA may play a role in at least some cases of Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders. To test this hypothesis, the researchers will pursue two goals. First, they will determine the levels of BMAA in autopsied tissue from Alzheimer brains, brains with Parkinson' disease and healthy brains. They plan to measure BMAA levels in both diseased and non-diseased regions of these brains to better determine if a correlation exists between BMAA and brain disease.
Second, the researchers will measure and analyze BMAA concentrations in samples of scalp hair from people with Alzheimer's disease, people with Parkinson's disease and healthy people. (Previous studies have shown that BMAA is detectable in the hair of mammals from Guam.)
This work could potentially identify a new risk factor for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and may lay the groundwork for characterizing how an environmental factor may contribute to disease processes.