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More Research Links Pesticides to Nerve Cell Damage and Parkinson's Disease
(Beyond Pesticides, November 10, 2003)
New research out of Emory University's Collaborative Center for Parkinson's Disease Environmental Research, presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans on Saturday, Nov. 8, finds that commonly used pesticides are toxic to the mitochondria of cells, an effect linked to Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's disease, which is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases, has been associated with abnormalities of mitochondria, which are the "power plants" that provide all cells with energy.

This new study adds to the significant body of scientific evidence that has repeatedly linked pesticide exposure to Parkinson's disease. Previous studies have shown that those who use pesticides have a 3.5 to 4 times greater chance of developing Parkinson's disease than those with no history of pesticide use.

According to a press release issued by Emory University Health Sciences Center, "In the new study, the Emory scientists exposed human neuroblastoma cells to the pesticides rotenone, pyridaben, fenazaquin, and fenpyroximate, all of which inhibit complex I. Pyridaben was by far the most potent toxic compound, followed by rotenone and fenpyroximate, with fenazaquin being the least toxic. Pyridaben was also more potent than rotenone in producing "free radicals" and oxidative damage to the cells, both of which are thought to be important in causing Parkinson's disease." Emory scientists cite the fact that the pesticide rotenone had already been linked to mitochondria toxicity and the development of Parkinson's disease.

"These results show that commonly used pesticides are toxic to cells, and may cause the kinds of cellular damage that lead to diseases such as Parkinson's," Emory researcher Todd Sherer, Ph.D., says. "Although our study does not prove that any particular pesticide causes Parkinson's, it does lead to more questions about the safety of chronic exposure to these environmental agents and certainly warrants additional research."

The research was led by Emory neurologists Tim Greenamyre, M.D., Ph.D and Todd Sherer, Ph.D, in association with Emory scientists Gary W. Miller, Ph.D, associate professor in Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, and neurologists Alexander Panov, Ph.D and Jason Richardson, Ph.D.

For more information, contact Holly Korschu, Emory University Health Sciences Center, hkorsch@emory.edu, 404-727-3990.