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Researchers Explore Possible Connections Between BMAA and Neurodegenerative Disorders

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Tom James - www.pelicanmedia.tv
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Blue-green algae in the Caloosahatchee River at the beginning of Summer, 2018.

The documentary Toxic Puzzle tells the story of an ethnobotanist named Paul Cox who has spent years trying to track down links between toxins produced by blue-green algae and neurodegenerative disorders like ALS and Alzheimer’s.

It all started with a huge spike in the number of cases of what was called ALS/Parkinsonism-dementia complex among people in Guam. Cox’s research uncovered that locals had been consuming large amounts of a toxin called BMAA that had apparently bio-accumulated in large fruit bats that were a staple of their diet.

The toxin was found in the fruits of cycad trees, and its source was found to be blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, that lived in those trees’ roots. This set off a chain of research that continues to this day into the possible health effects of exposure to blue-green algae, which southwest Floridians have become increasingly familiar with, especially after last year’s massive bloom that started in Lake Okeechobee and wound up choking the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary, as well as canals all along the river.

We’re joined by three researchers who have worked with Paul Cox on this issue. Dr. Deborah Mash, she is CEO & Founder of DemeRx, Inc, a clinical stage pharmaceutical development company based in Miami, and she is the lead researcher on a study that found signs of amyloid plaques, like those found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, in the brains of dolphins, which also contained BMAA.

Dr. Larry Brand is a Professor of Marine Biology and Ecology at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. His research has looked at cyanobacterial blooms and the occurrence of BMAA in South Florida aquatic food webs.

Dr. Walter Bradley is Professor and Chairman Emeritus in the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. His research is looking to correlate long-term exposure to toxins including, but not limited to BMAA and the development of ALS.