Chemistry 2011.org
Chemistry2011.org
All About Chemistry... 2011 and beyond

Related Stories

Of hurricanes, fungus and Parkinson's disease

Nov. 11, 2013 — Scientists at Rutgers and Emory universities have discovered that a compound often emitted by mold may be linked to symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Arati Inamdar and Joan Bennett, researchers in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers, used fruit flies to establish the connection between the compound -- popularly known as mushroom alcohol -- and the malfunction of two genes involved in the packaging and transport of dopamine, the chemical released by nerve cells to send messages to other nerve cells in the brain.

The findings were published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Parkinson's has been linked to exposure to environmental toxins, but the toxins were human-made chemicals," Inamdar said. "In this paper, we show that biologic compounds have the potential to damage dopamine and cause Parkinson's symptoms."

For co-author Bennett, the research was more than academic. Bennett was working at Tulane University in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005. Her flooded house became infested with molds, which she collected in samples, wearing a mask, gloves and protective gear.

"I felt horrible -- headaches, dizziness, nausea," said Bennett, now a professor of plant pathology and biology at Rutgers. "I knew something about 'sick building syndrome' but until then I didn't believe in it. I didn't think it would be possible to breathe in enough mold spores to get sick." That is when she formed her hypothesis that volatiles might be involved.

Inamdar, who uses fruit flies in her research, and Bennett began their study shortly after Bennett arrived at Rutgers. Bennett wanted to understand the connection between molds and symptoms like those she had experienced following Katrina.

The scientists discovered that the volatile organic compound 1-octen-3-ol, otherwise known as mushroom alcohol, can cause movement disorders in flies, similar to those observed in the presence of pesticides, such as paraquat and rotenone. Further, they discovered that it attacked two genes that deal with dopamine, degenerating the neurons and causing the Parkinson's-like symptoms.

Studies indicate that Parkinson's disease -- a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity and slow, imprecise movement -- is increasing in rural areas, where it's usually attributed to pesticide exposure. But rural environments also have a lot of mold and mushroom exposure.

"Our work suggests that 1-octen-3-ol might also be connected to the disease, particularly for people with a genetic susceptibility to it," Inamdar said. "We've given the epidemiologists some new avenues to explore."

Share this story with your friends!

Social Networking

Please recommend us on Facebook, Twitter and more:

Other social media tools

Global Partners
Feedback

Tell us what you think of Chemistry 2011 -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?

About us

Chemistry2011 is an informational resource for students, educators and the self-taught in the field of chemistry. We offer resources such as course materials, chemistry department listings, activities, events, projects and more along with current news releases.

Events & Activities

Are you interested in listing an event or sharing an activity or idea? Perhaps you are coordinating an event and are in need of additional resources? Within our site you will find a variety of activities and projects your peers have previously submitted or which have been freely shared through creative commons licenses. Here are some highlights: Featured Idea 1, Featured Idea 2.

About you

Ready to get involved? The first step is to sign up by following the link: Join Here. Also don’t forget to fill out your profile including any professional designations.

Global Partners