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    Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause and L- Serine Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND) Lou Gehrig's ALS and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's

    I was amazed to read this very recent, breakthroughresearch by Australian researchers into the potential cause of 90% of Motor NeuronDisease in humans, otherwise known as MND or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS ). Itwas reported in this Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) article on September 26th 2013.

    The ABC article and accompanying video interviewed leadauthor Dr Rachel Dunlop, from the University of Technology Sydney who claimed that thefindings will bring scientists ‘a step closer to understanding motor neuronedisease’. The interview revealed how it has beendiscovered that 90% of people in the World currently suffering from MND or ALSand who have died from MND or ALS in the past, have possibly developed thedisease after exposure to neurodegenerative toxins that are in blue green algae.

     "We think [the cause is] a toxin that's found inblue green algae and can get into all kinds of food stuffs, into fish, intocrustaceans, into seeds of trees," Dr Dunlop said.
    "It can move through the food chain andbio-concentrate and when people are exposed to it, it seems to be able totrigger motor neurone disease in some people.
    "It's fascinating. The algal toxin actually mimicsan amino acid that humans use to make their own proteins, and if its in yourbody at the time, it can trick yourselves into thinking it's the one that younormally use.”
    "Then when it gets into your proteins it canprevent them from folding and functioning properly, and that can lead totoxicity."

    Dr Dunlop said that the research originated from hercolleague Dr Paul Cox's observations in Guam, 'where the indigenous populationhas between 50-100 times more motor neurone disease than the generalpopulation'. This research has been published in the journal PLOS ONE at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0075376

    "He discovered that they were eating fruit batsand when he went and looked at what the fruit bats were eating, he found theywere eating the seeds of the cycad tree," she said.
    "He scratched around in the roots of that tree andfound that blue-green algae which also grows in the ground, not just in water,was actually growing as part of the roots of that tree."
    ‘The breakthrough might also help develop a treatmentfor the fatal condition, she says.’
    "The discovery that we found might help us todesign a therapy to stop it getting in to people's proteins," she said.
    "[It suggests that] if we could flush it out bygiving people lots of the human version, then we can maybe stop this conditionfrom occurring."
    ‘Dr Dunlop says clinical trials have started using theresearch to help find a treatment for the condition.’ 

    My own quick research taken from this Australian NSWGovernment article called ‘What Causes Algal Blooms’ explains the causes of a big increase in toxic global blue-green algae blooms worldwide and also explains that ‘the major route for human exposure is throughconsumption of seafood and shellfish as some species produce potent toxins thatcan be accumulated in fish and shellfish. Even low densities of toxic algae maybe sufficient to cause illness or death in humans, while some species canselectively kill fish by inhibiting their respiration.’

     

    ‘Nutrient fluctuations as a result of anthropogenicchanges can also influence the presence of algal blooms and species successionand may even influence when toxins are generated. Marine blooms may threatenfish resources, human health, ecosystem function and recreational amenity ofbeaches and bays.'

    Although the distribution of marine and estuarine algae is uncertain in Australia , the number and intensity of marine algal blooms is believed to be increasing world–wide due to:

    • Expansion of aquaculture in coastal areas
    • Coastal eutrophication and unusual climatic conditions
    • Movement of shellfish stocks and transport of resting cysts in ballast water.

    According to this US government website people are also taking blue-green algae health supplements such as Spirulina for which the US Government has alreadyidentified some potentially serious health and safety concerns :-

    “Blue-green algae” describes a large and diverse groupof simple, plant-like organisms found in salt water and some large fresh waterlakes. Blue-green algae products are used for many conditions, but sofar, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to determine whether or not theyare effective for any of them.Blue-green algae are used as a source ofdietary protein, B-vitamins, and iron. They are also used for weight loss,attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hayfever, diabetes, stress,fatigue, anxiety, depression, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and other women’shealth issues.’
    ‘Some blue-green algae products are grown undercontrolled conditions. Others are grown in a natural setting, where they aremore likely to be contaminated by bacteria, liver poisons (microcystins)produced by certain bacteria, and heavy metals. Choose only products that havebeen tested and found free of these contaminants.You may have been toldthat blue-green algae are an excellent source of protein. But, in reality,blue-green algae is no better than meat or milk as a protein source and costsabout 30 times as much per gram.’
    Are theresafety concerns?’
    ‘Blue-green algae products that are free ofcontaminants, such as liver-damaging substances called microcystins, toxicmetals, and harmful bacteria, are POSSIBLY SAFE for most people. Butblue-green algae products that are contaminated are LIKELY UNSAFE,especially for children. Children are more sensitive to contaminated blue-greenalgae products than adults.’
    ‘Contaminated blue-green algae can cause liver damage, stomach pain, nausea,vomiting, weakness, thirst, rapid heartbeat, shock, and death. Don’t use anyblue-green algae product that hasn’t been tested and found free of mycrocystinsand other contamination.’
    ‘Specialprecautions&warnings:’
    ‘Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is knownabout the use of blue-green algae during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay onthe safe side and avoid use.’
    “Auto-immune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupuserythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), pemphigus vulgaris (a skincondition), and others: Blue-green algae might cause the immune system tobecome more active, and this could increase the symptoms of auto-immunediseases. If you have one of these conditions, it’s best to avoid usingblue-green algae.’
    ‘Phenylketonuria: The spirulina species of blue-green algae contains thechemical phenylalanine. This might make phenylketonuria worse. Avoid Spirulinaspecies blue-green algae products if you have phenylketonuria.’

    Research published in the open access journal PLOS ONE and reported here by the Motor Neurone Disease Association (mnda) further expands on the link between the blue green algae neurotoxin BMAA and MND or ALS.

    A toxin known as β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA), which is found in blue-green algae, has been shown to cause proteins inside cells to clump together and cause cell death.
    This finding suggests that BMAA may be a cause of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and MND and could lead to the development of new treatments.
    What is BMAA?
    BMAA is a non-protein amino acid. This means, that unlike the 20 amino acids that our bodies use to make proteins, it does not make a human protein. BMAA is found in a type of bacteria called Cyanobacteria (more commonly known as blue-green algae), which are usually found in waterways as well as damp soil and on the roots of cycad plants.
    Blue-green algae can occasionally cause algal blooms. This is when there is a rapid growth of organisms due to high levels of nutrients in the water. The resulting bloom can sometimes become so large that it can be toxic to wildlife.
    The researchers found that when high concentrations of BMAA are present in neuron-like cells BMAA substituted itself with the amino acid L-serine during protein formation, creating a faulty protein within the cell. The faulty proteins were found to change shape so that they could no longer perform their role within the cell, causing them to clump together. The researchers also found that once BMAA was substituted into the protein this caused the cells to die. 
    This study further adds evidence to the role of BMAA and how it can cause proteins to clump together (which is a common hallmark in a number of neurodegenerative diseases). 
    The researchers stated that: ‘Our finding that BMAA can be misincorporated  (substituted) for serine in human proteins raises the possibility that such misincorporation results in neurodegenerative illness.

    My own mother had MND and sickened very quickly then died tragically at her own hands when she could no longer breath voluntarily, after contracting this very cruel and debilitating disease in 2009. Like me she was extremely fond of shellfish and seafood and ate it very regularly. Here is an old photo of her and me, the very fat baby! 


    She was English but she emigrated to Australia to be close to her children and grandchildren and lived nearby in Ballina, on the beautiful NSW coast, surrounded by vast expanses of both saltwater beaches and freshwater lakes, rivers and estuaries and their occasional blue green and other algal blooms. I’m confident that she didn’t takeany blue-green algae spirulina supplements but she loved eating fish, crab and lobster. She also probably had the geneticpredisposition to contract MND or ALS from exposure to blue-green algae, as I and my children also probably have. 


    It appears that this anthropogenically caused increase in blue-greenalgal blooms worldwide, could be found to be primarily responsible for the big increase in MND and ALSand possibly some of the other neurodegenerative diseases currently increasing all aroundthe world. Neurotoxic blue green algae or β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA) is being accidentally consumed by people in their seafood, crustaceans. freshwater fish and even in some health supplements. Could it also be present in other animals that we eat or in our drinking water supply and how often are we swimming in it or accidentally swallowing it while playing in the surf? 

    The algal blooms are often clearly visible but the microscopic blue-green algae are still often present in the absence of visible blooms and are very difficult to manage or even remove completely from contaminated water. According to this DPI NSW government website called 'Managing Blue Green Algae in Farm Dams' they can still be toxic even after they have been killed by algicides which can't be used in rivers and lakes.

    'Reference: Dunlop RA, Cox PA, Banack SA, Rodgers KJ (2013) The Non-Protein Amino Acid BMAA Is Misincorporated into Human Proteins in Place of l-Serine Causing Protein Misfolding and Aggregation. See http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0075376

    Here are some disturbing images of adults and children ignoring the many highly visible, toxic blue green algae warning signs erected by Ballina Council and continuing to swim and canoe in Lake Ainsworth on a daily basis risking some appalling long and short term health consequences:-

    Great news in today coincidentally on April Fool's day 2014, exactly five years since my mother was diagnosed with motor neuron disease. Dr Rachel Dunlop has received funding for Lou Gehrig's ALS and MND research investigating the connection between large clusters of ALS and motor neuron disease sufferers occurring around lakes and waterways with toxic blue green algae blooms.

    Dr Dunlop has written this article yesterday called 'BIG NEWS ABOUT AUSTRALIA'S BIG BLOOMS' :-

    We're proud to announce a new collaboration between UTS and MQ scientists in the search for environmental triggers for MND.
    Back in September 2013, UTS researchers announced the first plausible mechanism for a toxin found in blue green algae triggering sporadic MND.
    Now, in collaboration with the Macquarie University Motor Neurone Disease Research Centre, a team consisting of Dr Ken Rodgers (UTS), Dr Rachael Dunlop (UTS), Prof Gilles Guillemin (MQ), and Prof Dominic Rowe (MQ) plan to begin the first ever Australian studies looking at the link between exposure to blue green algae and increased risk of contracting MND.
    Blue green algae (correctly known as cyanobacteria) are most commonly associated with nutrient run-off in coastal waters and produce a neurotoxic amino acid called BMAA. 
    The evidence for algal toxins being a risk factor in triggering MND has been studied overseas for many years, including on Guam where it was reported that consuming fruit bats with high levels of BMAA was linked to a 50-100 times greater incidence of MND.
    Since then, studies from the US have shown a 10-25 times greater risk in people living adjacent to lakes subject to frequent algal blooms, and a 2-3 times greater risk in soldiers returning from the Gulf War where the desert crusts were coated in BMAA.

    Consuming large amounts of seafood that grows in waters contaminated with blue green algae has also been identified as a risk factor for MND, in particular mussels, crabs, prawns, lobsters and, shark fin. BMAA has also been found in the brains of patients who died from MND and Alzheimer’s disease.

    The environmental studies were initiated over the Australia Day long weekend, when Profs Rowe and Guillemin from MQ began interviewing MND patients in the rural NSW town of Griffith and taking samples for analysis. As a team, we will now be extending our studies to other MND hot spots in Australia with the aim of confirming the presence of BMAA in the Australian environment and then acquiring a better understanding the risks from exposure to algal toxins.

    Good luck Dr Rachel Dunlop and team with your research, it is long overdue in Australia. Hopefully you will be investigating clusters that are occurring around Ballina, Lake Ainsworth at Lennox Heads and Baywood Chase lake at Suffolk Park close to Byron Bay near to where I live?

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine

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    I am trying to locate a newspaper article called 'Ignoring Algae May Be Blooming Fatal' by Malcolm Holland to include in this forum about blue green algae causing Motor neuron disease. 
    I know it exists because it is a picture displayed on Dr Rachael Dunlop's Twitter account. It says that 'people regularly ignore blue green algae warning signs and swim, water ski or fish in contaminated lakes'. I know that I and my family definitely don't do this but it sounds as though the general public needs to be made much more aware of the dangers of toxic blue green algae especially as a result of the findings of this new research.

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
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    I'm amazed to discover a few hours ago that the possible cause of up to 90% of Lou Gerhig's ALS or MND and possibly also Parkinson's was known two years ago when realclearscience.com published a link to an article which they called 'Do Bacteria Cause Lou Gehrig's ALS?' The linked article was called 'Was Lou Gehrig’s ALS Caused by Tap Water? and it claimed that :-
    'A toxic molecule found in pond scum may trigger neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and Parkinson’s. Could a group of scientists, led by a botanist, hold the key to a cure?'
    'Most visitors to Yellowstone National Park’s Midway Geyser Basin stroll the wooden boardwalks, but a few hike a short, steep side trail that reveals a bird’s-eye view of the entire valley, including Grand Prismatic Spring, which can be fully appreciated only from above. Mustard-yellow and vibrant-orange mats spread like tentacles from the turquoise pool. “Not even the most talented artist could imagine something as beautiful as that,” muses Sandra Banack, a biologist who studies cyanobacteria, the microbes that create the colorful mats — and that hold a toxic secret.'
    'Banack works as senior scientist at the Institute for EthnoMedicine in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, alongside the institute’s founder, Paul Cox, a botanist and conservationist. Cox’s long list of achievements includes working to preserve Samoan rain forests, for which he was awarded the 1997 Goldman Environmental Prize, and discovering one of the few compounds active against HIV, prostratin, from the Samoan mamala tree. In the early 2000s — when he directed the National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Hawaii and Florida and Banack was a biology professor at California State University, Fullerton — the two made a series of discoveries that led to the founding of the institute.'
    'What started as a study of the island of Guam’s fruit bats and cycads, ancient seed-bearing plants that resemble palms, led to a startling hypothesis: Could cyanobacteria cause neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s?'

    Well the answer is YES. Why has it taken so long for this startling information about the toxic, blue green algae, potential cause of 90% of Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND and Parkinson's disease to become global general scientific and public knowledge and why was it described as a 'toxic secret' back in 2011?

    Is it because blue green algae is anthropogenically caused by bad agricultural and environmental practices and it would be very expensive to reverse or repair and is almost impossible to control? Is it also because only a relatively small percentage of the population will finally succumb to these deadly debilitating neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, MND and Parkinson's? Where are the PHD scientists who should be making social commentary about these known risks and why have they been kept as a 'toxic secret'  from the general public until now?

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
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    Hi Helen,

    Thank you for helping to spread this very exciting development in MND research.

    Dr Dunlop's team has found a mechanismfor how blue- green algal toxins might trigger MND.

    Following an exchange of emails with Dr Dunlop she asked that I pop on here to clarify that 
    over 90% of cases of MND are not linked to specificgenes, they are sporadic and caused by something else. Dr Dunlop's team looked for environmentaltriggers of MND. They have found one, it's BMAA. While BMAA may trigger MND in some cases, it is not the only cause of sporadic MND. It is becoming clearer to scientists that MND is a terribly complex group of diseases that is most likely caused by a combination of factors. Dr Dunlop's research has solved one of the pieces of the puzzle, but alas there is much more to learn about what causes MND.

    The MND Association (UK) has just published a blog that provides a good overview of the current state of research on BMAA: http://mndresearch.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/researchers-in-australia-identify-how-blue-green-algae-may-cause-some-cases-of-mnd/


    And so the quest continues...

    Rachel Rizk
    MND Australia

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    Thank you Rachel for commenting here on behalf of the MND Australia and at Dr Dunlop's request. I hope that I have also made it very clear in my article that only up to 90% of MND or ALS is potentially caused by toxic blue green algae and BMAA? 

    It is alarming that BMAA and blue green algae is increasing globally and accumulating in our food supplies like fish and crustaceans and also in our waterways, both saltwater beaches and freshwater rivers, lakes and dams. It is therefore fantastic that Dr Dunlop's team has recently found a mechanism for how blue-green algal toxins might be triggering MND and ALS and maybe even other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. 

    I noticed that since I wrote this forum article Dr Dunlop has written an article for SBS in which she explains more about her team's recent research and findings. She also mentions there that she is a co-inventor on a patent for L-serine use in neurodegenerative disorders  and that she receives funding from the Institute for Ethnomedecine, WY, USA.

    This probably explains why I could inexplicably find no mention whatsoever of blue green algae and BMAA potentially causing or even having ever been linked in any way to MND and ALS anywhere on the Australian MND website, on the day that I wrote this forum article. This was the same day that Dr Dunlop was interviewed by the ABC releasing this information. Consequently I sent an email to the MND Association asking them why that was? The next day a very comprehensive and informative  article about blue-green algae and BMAA was published on the MND Australia website and I immediately incorporated quotes and information from that into my forum article above, before you made your comment above linking to it again but thank you for that :) 

    When my mother was diagnosed with MND I and probably many others in the same situation then spent many hours scouring the MND Australia website and MND research listed there looking for articles like this. I wish I had a dollar for every time I read an article researching the aptly named SOD1 gene that the 5 to 10% of MND and ALS sufferers carry. I still don't know if my mother or anyone else in my family carry that gene, as she was considered too old to be a candidate for genetic research into MND in Australia.

    I am still a bit bemused as to why there was no mention of blue green algae on the MND Australia website prior to me writing this forum article as I have since found this 2011 realclearscience link to an American article called 'Do Bacteria Cause Lou Gehrig's Disease's ALS' which clearly links blue green algae as a potential cause of MND and ALS in this article called 'Was Lou Gehrig's ALS Caused by Tap Water'? It also mentions presumably the same Dr Paul Cox who is also a co-inventor on the patent for L-serine for medicinal and therapeutic use in neurodegenerative disorders as Dr Dunlop, who receives funding from the Institute for Ethnomedecine mentioned above which he also founded. The article claims that :-
    A toxic molecule found in pond scum may trigger neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and Parkinson’s. Could a group of scientists, led by a botanist, hold the key to a cure?
    Banack works as senior scientist at the Institute for EthnoMedicine in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, alongside the institute’s founder, Paul Cox, a botanist and conservationist. 
    Cox’s long list of achievements includes working to preserve Samoan rain forests, for which he was awarded the 1997 Goldman Environmental Prize, and discovering one of the few compounds active against HIV, prostratin, from the Samoan mamala tree. In the early 2000s — when he directed the National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Hawaii and Florida and Banack was a biology professor at California State University, Fullerton — the two made a series of discoveries that led to the founding of the institute.
    What started as a study of the island of Guam’s fruit bats and cycads, ancient seed-bearing plants that resemble palms, led to a startling hypothesis: Could cyanobacteria cause neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s?
    So all of this was known back in 2011! Dr Dunlop's recent SBS article suggests that BMAA may be a cause of globally increasing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and MND and could lead to the development of these new treatments like L-serine, L-serine precursors, L-serine derivatives and L-serine conjugates for treatment, amelioration and/or prevention of protein aggregation/tangles/plaques and diseases associated with protein aggregation/tangles/plaques that was recently patented by Dr Rachael Dunlop, Dr Paul Cox and their colleagues in June this year. 

    It appears that these treatments will hopefully one day be able to treat MND and ALS, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's sufferers to try to reverse their absorption of BMAA and help prevent further absorption of this deadly toxin in their food and even in their drinking water. Especially as BMAA cannot be easily detected in water or food or killed with boiling and disinfectants. Even algicides which can be used in dams but not in waterways such as rivers and lakes, do not render it any less toxic as the toxin remains after the blue green algae has been killed. Carbon filtration of water and avoiding eating potentially infected food, in particular fish and crustaceans, are the only ways that I can see to avoid consuming blue green algae and BMAA at present. 


    Many farms all over the world have dams that have blue green algal blooms, we have even owned a farm that did have an occasional algal bloom of some sort and we were told by our local farmers' coop to use a handful of copper sulphate thrown into the dam  as an algicide, which they said would also supply our cattle with the copper, which is deficient in the land here. 

    Many farmers were probably doing this and may still be. Noone  told us to get the dam water tested or that it could be toxic though I have since found DPI NSW Government information advising this here. This says that copper and algicides often don't fix the blue green algae problem because the BMAA toxins remain even after the blue green algae have died and must NEVER be used in rivers and lakes or where there are fish. It says that the blue-green algae is neuro toxic to farm animals too  and can cause serious breathing difficulties, neurodegeneration and death. I also read there that blue green algae toxins and BMAA cannot be removed by boiling or using disinfectants and that they can only be removed with carbon filtration, which we have installed on our drinking water tap. I tried to persuade my parents to install one but they saw no reason to do this!

    It looks as though globally we are going to have to find new ways to cut down on the unnecessary amount of excessive spraying of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers that then run off into our waterways and pollute our water and potentially enable these very unhealthy, toxic blue green algal blooms that accumulate in our fish, crustaceans and food chain which we then eat and also accumulates in the water that we bathe in and drink. Especially as MND and ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases that are all potentially triggered by blue-green algae and BMAA cause such terrible suffering in the patients and their carers  and as you pointed out above 'it is becoming clearer to scientists that MND is a terribly complex group of diseases that is most likely caused by a combination of factors. Dr Dunlop's research has solved one of the pieces of the puzzle, but alas there is much more to learn about what causes MND'. 

    New approaches may come from genetically engineering our crops to need less fungicides, pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers as suggested in this recent Science20 article by Steve Savage about the potential to genetically engineer grapes to be more mildew resistant for example to achieve this. Reducing the levels of blue-green algae in our waterways and food supply with better farming practices would be a very good start and developing these potential treatments for sufferers and educating and making the public and farmers much more aware of the causes and dangers of blue green algae and BMAA would also probably be a very good move!
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
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    The Motor Neurone Disease Association (mnda) have just published the following information about this MND research on their website :- 

    'This research adds another piece to the BMAA puzzle and how it may cause neurodegenerative diseases like MND. The researchers have shown that BMAA can cause neuron-like cells to die but the next step would be for researchers to test this inmotor neurones.'
    'Dr Dickie also commented on this new research and what the next steps could be: “This research represents a key piece of evidence that takes the BMAA story forward, but it’s still not done and dusted. The next step is to see if they get the same results in human motor neurons in the lab, and not just ‘neuron-like’ cells. Many labs can create human motor neurons from iPSCs, so it would add weight to their theory if they can show that these motor neurons are vulnerable to BMAA – and indeed maybe those created from people with known genetic causes of MND are even more susceptible.”'
    'If motor neurones are susceptible to BMAA this could then give rise to potential new treatments for MND that could block BMAA from substituting itself into human proteins.'
    'Reference: Dunlop RA, Cox PA, Banack SA, Rodgers KJ (2013) The Non-Protein Amino Acid BMAA Is Misincorporated into Human Proteins in Place of l-Serine Causing Protein Misfolding and Aggregation. See http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0075376
    Twitter: Lead author on the paper, Dr Rachael Dunlop, was kind enough to comment on the blog post via Twitter: “That blog is fantastic. Thanks for the clear concise explanation. Cheers. Brian Dickie’s comments are EXACTLY where we want to go next. If I can get a grant, then we will! #crossesfingers“
    Let's hope that Dr Rachael Dunlop and her team do get a grant to fund this vital MND Research asap.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
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    I have just made this comment on Robert Walker's Article which is called 'Life On the Edge In Cold Dry Deserts Of Mars - Dust Storms, And Contamination By Microbes From Leaky Spacesuits' and which discusses the possible effects of blue green algae, BMAA and cyanobacteria as potential early colonisers of Mars in lichen and I thought it was relevant to this forum, so here it is :-
    From their description, seems to me that there is no benefit to the algae not like it evolved the capability to cause disease in humans, just a toxin created as a biproduct. Plus only affects a tiny percentage of humans, for reasons unknown, of course for those affected is devastating.
    Its not really a tiny percentage of people being affected any more Robert, Motor Neurone Disease (MND&ALS), Alzheimer's and related dementia and Parkinson's and other similar neurodegenerative disorders are all on the increase worldwide and who doesn't know at least a few people who are directly affected? I certainly know plenty. It is obvious from even your link that outlines the dangers and problems of blue green algae or rather cyanobacteria which is what it really is, that all animals and humans who consume sufficiently high levels of BMAA from water or food will develop neurotoxin symptoms immediately, regardless of whether they are genetically prone to MND, ALS,  Alzheimer's or Parkinsons or whatever!

    What I find amazing is that this definite link between BMAA and neurodegenerative diseases has been known about for a long time since it was first identified in Guam over 30 years ago and finally now the scientists are working out the exact mechanism after studying it for years! 

    Personally I wish they had better publicized this possible causal connection years ago and my mother might still be alive. She and I would definitely not have risked eating seafood, crustaceans like prawns, crab and lobster and fish that could have possibly been swimming around and contaminated by bioaccumulation of blue green algae and BMAA if we had been better informed. We would also both have definitely fitted carbon filters on our drinking water taps. I have had one for several years but she didn't, even though it does look as though local government authorities where she lives and all over the World have been battling blue green algae and BMAA in the water supply for many years.

    This managing cyanobacteria manual supplied by SA Water describes the problems that many of these water authorities face. They clearly describe in Chapter 7 which is about recreational actiivities affected by blue green algae, such as canoeing, wind surfing, rowing, swimming and fishing that '100,000 cyanobacterial cells mL‐1 or 50 ug L‐1 chlorophyll‐a with dominance of cyanobacteria' will cause 'potential for long‐ term illness with some cyanobacterial species. Short‐term adverse health outcomes, e.g. skin irritations and gastro‐intestinal illness'. I think that it will turn out that some people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time!

    It does look as though some people are more adversely affected by these blue green algae BMAA toxins than others and there may be many reasons why that is, not just genetics, especially as BMAA is bioaccumulative in the food that they are eating like fish and crustaceans and they are also being directly affected by the environment where they live, eat and breath. There is a much higher incidence of people living near to lakes and waterways developing MND/ALS for example and professions that have high exposure to blue green algae also have a much higher incidence. 


    Photo taken from http://thames.me.uk/s01630.htm

    Its interesting that when Stephen Hawking who suffers from MND/ALS was at Oxford University in his second year to be more sociable he joined the college Boat Club, 'where he coxed a rowing team.[35][36] The rowing trainer at the time noted that Hawking cultivated a daredevil image, steering his crew on risky courses that led to damaged boats.[37][35] ' I expect that as the cox he would have been exposed to more toxic, blue green algae bloom spray than the rowers, as he faced the direction that they were rowing towards and the spray would have been constantly in his face. How polluted was the Oxford river in those days I wonder, did blue green algae possibly cause Stephen Hawking's MND?

    Could these potential new treatments for MND and other neurodegenerative diseases that are up to 90% potentially being caused by blue green algae and BMAA like L-serine, L-serine precursors, L-serine derivatives and L-serine conjugates for treatment, amelioration and/or prevention of protein aggregation/tangles/plaques and diseases associated with protein aggregation/tangles/plaques recently patented by Dr Rachael Dunlop, Dr Paul Cox and their colleagues in June this year, be able to reverse the toxic effects of BMAA on Stephen Hawking? Wouldn't it be fantastic if he made a miraculous recovery as a result of Dr Dunlop and Dr Paul Cox's blue green algae BMAA research? If so then it would be most appropriate that one of the researchers surnames is Cox!
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
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    Another relevant comment about blue green algae, BMAA and cyanobacteria that I have just made on Robert Walker's Article which is called 'Life On the Edge In Cold Dry Deserts Of Mars - Dust Storms, And Contamination By Microbes From Leaky Spacesuits' and which discusses the possible effects of blue green algae as potential future early colonisers of Mars via lichen and which I thought was relevant to this forum, so here it is :-
    The way it works seems rather relevant to back contamination issues actually: "Now, a team of cell biologists and ethnobotanists, including myself, has revealed that BMAA mimics an amino acid that our bodies naturally use to make proteins called L-Serine. Mistaking the toxin for the amino acid, the body incorporates it into human proteins, rendering them harmful."
    From their description, seems to me that there is no benefit to the algae not like it evolved the capability to cause disease in humans, just a toxin created as a biproduct. Plus only affects a tiny percentage of humans, for reasons unknown, of course for those affected is devastating.
    Just for the record Robert according to this article by the McGovern Institute at MIT called 'Brain Disorders by Number' :-
    Alzheimer’s Disease
    'In its 2012 annual report, the Alzheimer’s Association (AA) estimates that 5.4 million people in the US have Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  The risk of AD increases with age, so unless new treatments are discovered this number will grow sharply as the baby boomer generation reaches old age. By 2050, the AA estimates that between 11 million and 16 million Americans will have the disease, with one new case appearing every 33 seconds.'
    'Alzheimer’s and other dementias have a disproportionate impact on countries with longer life expectancies, and represent the fourth highest source of overall disease burden in the high-income countries, according to WHO statisticsBut the disease is also a major burden in less wealthy countries and is expected to grow rapidly.  Worldwide, Alheimers Disease International (ADI) estimates in its 2010 report that there are 35.6 million people with AD worldwide as of 2010, and that this will grow to 115.4 million people by 2050.'
    'The economic cost of AD is already enormous, and is expected to grow rapidly as more people live to a greater age with more serious impairments.  Worldwide, ADI estimates that for 2010 the global cost of dementia (of which Alzheimer's is the major cause), including medical costs and cost of formal and informal care, is $604 billion – about 1% of world gross domestic product. The costs are disproportionatetly high in wealthy countries. In the US, for example, the Alzheimer’s Associationestimates that the cost of providing care for AD patients is $200 billion per year, as of 2012.  If present trends continue, this cost is projected to grow to $1.1 trillion per year (in 2012 dollars) by 2050 – an overwhelming economic burden.'
    Parkinson’s Disease
    'The US National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) estimated in a 2006 reportthat about 50,000 new cases of Parkinson's disease are diagnosed in the US each year, and the total number of cases in the US is at least 500,000. The true prevalence (total number of cases) of Parkinson’s disease is difficult to assess, because the disease is typically not diagnosed until the disease process is already far advanced.  Therefore the actual number of Americans with the disease is almost certainly higher than the diagnostic numbers would suggest.
    'Worldwide numbers are difficult to obtain, but in industrialized countries the prevalence of Parkinson's disease is about 1% for people over 60, with estimates of up to 4% for people in the highest age groups (de Lau&Breteler 2006).  The risk of developing Parkinson's disease rises sharply with age after the age of 60, so the number of cases is likely to grow significantly as populations become older throughout the world.  In the US, for example, Dorsey et al (2007) estimated that the prevalence will at least double by 2030.'
    'According to the 2006 report referenced above, NINDS estimates that the economic cost of Parkinson's disease in the US exceeds $6 billion per year.  This figure may be conservative; other estimates are much higher, particularly when indirect costs such as lost productivity are also included. For example,Huse et al (2005) estimated a cost to the US economy of $23 billion per year (in 2002 dollars) andO’Brien et al (2009) estimated the total cost at $10.78 billion per year or $21,626 per patient per year (in 2007 dollars).  In Europe, Gustavsson et al (2011) estimated the 2010 cost of Parkinson's disease to be €13.9 billion.'

    So there are already a hell of a lot of people in the world suffering from these neurodegenerative diseases and if up to 90% of these are potentially being caused by blue green algae, BMAA or cyanobacteria in our drinking water supply and bioaccumulating in our fish and food supply then this is taking a very expensive toll on humanity and the environment both emotionally and financially and will continue to do so until we fix the problem.


    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
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    Another relevant comment replying to Robert walker about blue green algae, BMAA and cyanobacteria that I have just made on Robert Walker's Article which is called 'Life On the Edge In Cold Dry Deserts Of Mars - Dust Storms, And Contamination By Microbes From Leaky Spacesuits' and which discusses the possible effects of blue green algae as potential future early colonisers of Mars via lichen and which I thought was relevant to this forum, so here it is :-
    It doesn't surprise me immensely having lived just perhaps a half a mile from the thames for many years. Do you see the colour of the Thames in this screenshot of aerial view from google maps? (google map link)
    The red dot shows the street I used to live until a few years ago (not the actual house just centered on the street. The green to the left is a big pond which I believe used to be used for refueling steam locomotives in the old days - they had ponds every so often along the line so that they could take in new water at any time. Don't know for sure if this is one of them but is right next to the railway line and vague memory of someone saying it was.
    c
    The green area to the right though is the river Thames, and this is exactly the stretch that they use for rowing - have boat houses of all the colleges along it and when you go out for a walk there you often see rowers out rowing on the river - followed by their trainers who cycle along the tow path - there is a tow path all the way along the river Thames which in the old days was used by horses to pull barges along the Thames - now is just a public path all the way along the Thames to London 
    There is a colour called Thames Green which is pretty much the same colour as green algae (click on the link to see it). The old house I used to live in when young had a darkened Thames green paint if you scraped off the top layers of paint - originally painted that colour though darkened with age as well, rather a gloomy colour.
    Yes Robert, it looks like it has a high blue green algae content from that Google Maps screenshot! As it is bioaccumulative in our bodies I strongly recommend that you fit a carbon filter on your water supply  immediately as boiling and disinfection doesn't remove BMAA and you have probably accumulated quite a lot in your body already. 

    I also lived by the River Thames for 10 years in Richmond, London and it used to look very polluted back then as well, I think some people used to die if they got drunk and fell in it! So this blue green algae problem appears to be worldwide, I noticed its even prevalent in Sacramento, California. This article from June 2013 is warning Californians not to fish or do any water recreational activities :-
    Due to its potential health risks, federal, state, and tribal agencies are urging swimmers, boaters and recreational users to avoid contact with blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) now blooming in Copco Reservoir on the Klamath River in Northern California. Copco Reservoir has been posted with health advisories warning against human and animal contact with the water.
    Cyanobacteria (Microcystis aeruginosa) cell counts in Copco Reservoir have exceeded the public health advisory threshold during recent public health monitoring. California agencies including the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and the California Department of Public Health, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Yurok and Karuk Tribes urge residents and recreational water users of Copco Reservoir to use caution and avoid getting in the water near these blooms, especially during the upcoming summer months.
    "As blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) can pose health risks, especially to children and pets, we urge people to be careful where they swim when visiting Copco Reservoir," said Matt St. John, Executive Officer of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. "We recommend that people and their pets avoid contact with the blooms, and particularly avoid swallowing or inhaling of water spray in an algal bloom area."
    The algal blooms look bright green in the water, and blue-green, white or brown foam, scum or mats can float on the water and accumulate along the shore. Recreational exposure to toxic blue-green algae can cause eye irritation, allergic skin rash, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, and cold and flu-like symptoms. Liver failure, nerve damage and death have occurred in rare situations where large amounts of contaminated water were directly ingested.
    The Statewide Guidance on Harmful Algal Blooms recommends the following:

    · Take care that pets and livestock do not drink the water or swim through heavy algae, scums or mats, nor lick their fur after going in the water. Rinse pets in clean drinking water to remove algae from fur.

    · Avoid wading and swimming in water containing visible blooms or water containing algae, scums or mats.

    · If no algae, scums or mats are visible, you should still carefully watch young children and warn them not to swallow the water.

    · Do not drink, cook or wash dishes with untreated surface water under any circumstances; common water purification techniques (e.g., camping filters, tablets) may not remove toxins.

    · People should limit or avoid eating fish. If fish are consumed, remove guts and liver, and rinse filets in clean drinking water.

    · Get medical treatment immediately if you think that you, your pet, or livestock might have been poisoned by blue-green algae toxins. Be sure to alert the medical professional to the possible contact with blue-green algae.

    With proper precautions to avoid water contact, people can still visit Copco Reservoir and enjoy camping, hiking, biking, canoeing, picnicking, or other recreational activities, excluding direct contact with the algal bloom. 
    They  obviously made a mistake there by including canoeing as OK! They also forgot to mention future and past bioaccumulation for the fish, animals and people that have been exposed. Rinsing fish fillets in clean drinking water won't remove BMAA that has already bioaccumulated in it! Maybe its the blue green algae that are recolonising Planet Earth and we are the ones who will eventually be eradicated by this? Maybe it is also destroying our collective intelligence? If we can't stop anthropogenically caused global warming and we can't stop ever increasing anthropogenic pollution and run offs causing algal blooms and killing the fish and animals that live in and drink the water then its almost inevitable isn't it?
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    Does krill oil contain neurotoxic beta-Methylamino-L-alanine or BMAA from the krill's consumption of cyanobacteria or blue green algae? That was the question I asked myself today as I was about to take my daily krill oil capsule after breakfast as usual. Some quick research has not been very reassuring so far. 



    There have been some massive blue green algal blooms in the Antarctica in recent years, as well as another huge toxic blue green algae bloom off the coast of China, which coincided with the Beijing Olympics and hampered many water sports there until it was cleaned up by their army. The Antarctica algal blooms in 2011 were so enormous they were visible from space and they may have been caused by massive red dust storms in Australia, which have occurred for decades but may apparently be increasing lately because of climate change and agricultural practices causing increased soil erosion. 

    Sydney Harbour Bridge under Dust Blanket
    Image taken by Yegor Korzh @ www.yktravelphoto.com

    I'm definitely no krill expert but it looks as though they do feed upon cyanobacteria or blue green algae if it is present and blue green algae contain BMAA and have been present in the Antarctica in very large quantities where the krill for our krill oil are exclusively harvested. 

    I then came across the Omegavia website and a comprehensive article discussing the health benefits of fish oil versus krill oil, written by Vin Kutty who is OmegaVia’s Scientific Advisor and Chief Blogger. He is a nutritionist, author, and Omega-3 expert with over 20 years of experience. At the end of his very comprehensive article were dozens of questions and comments asking about the safety of krill oil and possible contaminants. A Richard Raborn MD on June 20, 2012 asked him 'Do you know if krill oil products are checked for BMAA? See http://www.ethnomedicine.org'? Vin Kutty replied :-
    Hi Dr. Raborn – I don’t know of any krill oil products that are tested for BMAA. I understand that this amino acid comes from cyanobacteria, probably photosynthetic. Commercial Krill used in supplements feed on algae and are harvested exclusively in the Antarctic. I would doubt that BMAA is an issue, but I can’t say that with certainty. There is a new program called IKOS – Intl Krill Oil Standards that is being developed by Nutrasource Diagnostics at the Univ of Guelph in Canada. I don’t think their program is fully defined and off the ground, but when they are, I will pose this question to them. My guess is that other than Omega-3, toxins and oxidation byproducts, they would only be looking for astaxanthin and phospholipids. Unfortunately, if BMAA is present and in quantities sufficient to cause a problem, someone needs to raise its awareness/risk before companies will start testing for it.- Vin Kutty
    I have since added the following comment on the website which is awaiting moderation at http://www.omegavia.com/krill-oil-vs-fish-oil/#comment-48137
    As far as I can see the International Krill Oil Standards (IKOS) Program is not testing for toxic BMAA from cyanobacteria that krill feed upon and which have been present in large blooms in recent years in the Antarctica when it almost definitely should be!
    Especially now that recent research by Australian researchers have discovered that BMAA is potentially causing up to 90% of motor neurone disease MND and Lou Gehrig’s ALS as well as possibly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and other globally increasing neurodegenerative diseases. See my article at Science20.com describing this.
    The IKOS website at http://ikosprogram.com/IKOS/TestingServices.aspx claims that it was established by Nutrasource Diagnostics Inc. (NDI) as a third-party, internationally recognized testing program for krill oil products.
    ‘The purpose of the IKOS Program is to ensure that the quality of commercially available krill oil products exceeds international standards established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).’
    ‘NDI, through its certified and accredited reference laboratory partners, tests krill oil products for environmental contaminants including PCBs, mercury, heavy metals, dioxins and furans as well as oxidation levels, omega-3, phospholipid and astaxanthin content in the finished product.’
    No mention of IKOS testing for BMAA which has now been definitely linked with neurodegenerative diseases worldwide. 
    Recent research published in the open access journal PLOS ONE and reported at http://mndresearch.wordpress.com/ by the Motor Neurone Disease Association (mnda) expands on the link between the blue green algae neurotoxin BMAA and MND or ALS, as well as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
    ‘A toxin known as β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA), which is found in blue-green algae, has been shown to cause proteins inside cells to clump together and cause cell death.
    This finding suggests that BMAA may be a cause of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and MND and could lead to the development of new treatments.
    What is BMAA?
    ‘BMAA is a non-protein amino acid. This means, that unlike the 20 amino acids that our bodies use to make proteins, it does not make a human protein. BMAA is found in a type of bacteria called Cyanobacteria (more commonly known as blue-green algae), which are usually found in waterways as well as damp soil and on the roots of cycad plants.’
    ‘Blue-green algae can occasionally cause algal blooms. This is when there is a rapid growth of organisms due to high levels of nutrients in the water. The resulting bloom can sometimes become so large that it can be toxic to wildlife.’
    ‘The researchers found that when high concentrations of BMAA are present in neuron-like cells BMAA substituted itself with the amino acid L-serine during protein formation, creating a faulty protein within the cell. The faulty proteins were found to change shape so that they could no longer perform their role within the cell, causing them to clump together. The researchers also found that once BMAA was substituted into the protein this caused the cells to die.’
    ‘This study further adds evidence to the role of BMAA and how it can cause proteins to clump together (which is a common hallmark in a number of neurodegenerative diseases).
    The researchers stated that: ‘Our finding that BMAA can be misincorporated (substituted) for serine in human proteins raises the possibility that such misincorporation results in neurodegenerative illness.’
    Hopefully I will get a reassuring response from Vin Kutty, which I will be able to post here and then I can resume taking my krill oil :)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
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    Hopefully I will get a reassuring response from Vin Kutty, which I will be able to post here and then I can resume taking my krill oil :)
    My comment and question about whether krill oil is being tested for BMAA by IKOS was eventually posted publicly on the Omegavia website anVin Kutty has now kindly replied to me :-
     October 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm
    Hi Helen – excellent recap and reminder. I will pose this question to the IKOS people and see what they have to say.
    I have just noticed that Wikipedia still needs to update its BMAA (β-Methylamino-L-alanine) entry to reflect Dr Rachael Dunlop and her team's more recent research findings. Wikipedia currently says :-
    Recent studies have begun to shed light on the effects of BMAA and the possible link to ALS and Alzheimer's. In 2009 neuroscientist Deborah Mash, who is the director of the University of Miami's Brain Endowment Bank, began working with colleague John Pablo. Together they conducted an independent study of ALS and Alzheimer's brains using samples from the brain bank. 
    The results that followed were shocking; the team found BMAA in 23 out of the 24 samples derived from 12 Alzheimer's patients and also found that from the 13 samples that were taken from ALS patients all of the samples tested positive for BMAA.[4] Studies like this one are still being conducted to see if the results can be reproduced to show that there is a link between BMAA and ALS and Alzheimer's.
    Unequivocal evidence implicating BMAA as a causative factor in human sporadic or familial ALS and AD has not been forthcoming. The multifocal nature of neurodegenerative processes in human ALS and AD suggests multiple etiologies.
    A new study by University of Miami (UM) scientists in the journal Marine Drugs has discovered high concentrations of BMAA in shark fins, a neurotoxin possibly linked to neurodegenerative diseases in humans, including Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig Disease (ALS). The study suggests that consumption of shark fin soup and cartilage pills may pose a health risk for degenerative brain diseases, but further research is necessary.[5]

    It is no longer true to say that there is no unequivocal evidence implicating BMAA as a causative factor in human sporadic ALS or even that BMAA is just a possible link because research has recently shown BMAA to be a definite link in potentially up to 90% of cases of MND or ALS. It is true though that neurodegenerative diseases are still believed to be multi-factorial and have a 'multifocal nature' and that 'AD suggests multiple etiologies'. Heavy metal and toxin exposure, locality, profession, health and genetics still appear to play a significant role in many cases of MND and Lou Gehrig's ALS.

    It also now seems that shark fin soup and shark cartilage chondroitin capsules which are often recommended and included in natural health food products for treating osteoarthritis are another potentially significant source of toxic BMAA.

     Maybe the white fish from sharks that we eat are another significant food source of toxic BMAA as this is often sold as the battered fish in fish and chip shops? Is tuna also BMAA contaminated? Definitely further research is necessary to identify all of the foods that we consume that are contaminated with blue green algae and BMAA either bioaccumulated or at source, as I'm running out of fish and seafood to safely eat as well as my supposedly healthy supplements to take!

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    Vin Kutty has replied to my question on the Omegavia website asking whether IKOS is testing krill oil for toxic BMAA from blue green algae. I then replied to Vin Kutty :-

    Thanks Vin Kutty for your reply below in which you said ‘Hi Helen – IKOS responded to my question about BMAA. They said that they do not test for it and will be investigating the risk. Not much else yet. Krill may be found along with cyanobacteria, but no shrimp or krill species I’m aware of will touch cyanobacteria!’
    I am now investigating the life cycle of the krill and trying to find definitive evidence one way or another of krill consuming blue green algae or cyanobacteria in their various life stages.
    I know that crustaceans and filter feeders have been found to bioaccumulate BMAA, so I find it difficult to imagine why or how Antarctic krill would not accidentally consume or become contaminated by some of the huge Antarctic blooms of blue green algae species in the same way that dolphins, humans, fish and crustaceans also inadvertently become contaminated by BMAA.
    Surely IKOS should now be testing for toxic BMAA from blue green algae in krill oil and krill products now that we know that it potentially causes up to 90% of MND or Lou Gehrig’s ALS and has been directly implicated in Alzheimer’s,Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases?
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    Recent comments about blue green algae and toxic BMAA potential presence in untested krill oil from Vin Kutty and the Omegavia website
    Vin Kutty October 27, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Hi Helen – I’d love to find out what your research digs up. BMAA is certainly something to watch. It certainly concerns me but we (I) don’t know enough about it to say conclusively that there is no contamination of krill. As for neurological diseases, they have multiple pathologies. I’ve read several conflicting theories, most pointing to diet and environment. I’d put BMAA in the latter. Again, we don’t have definitive answers. Do you have a PubMed/reference for the 90% statement?


     Helen Barratt October 27, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Hi Vin,
    You say that neurological diseases have multiple pathologies and that you’ve read several conflicting theories, most pointing to diet and environment and that you would put BMAA in the latter.

    I would agree with you that neurodegenerative diseases are often multifocal in origin but without a doubt now many species blue green algae and in particular their toxic BMAA have been shown to be often in our environment, our water and our food supply, especially as they have the propensity to bioaccumulate, just as mercury and some other environmental toxins do. I can’t find the Pubmed article but here is the PlosOne paper athttp://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0075376

    Also this SBS interview of Doctor Rachael Dunlop the Research Team spokeperson is very informative and mentions the ‘up to 90%’ I think seehttp://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2013/09/26/toxic-load-blue-green-algaes-role-motor-neuron-disease



    Vin Kutty October 28, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Hi Helen – this is eye-opening. Thanks for sharing the links. Certainly something to watch.



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    Thank you Helen for this article. As a result of reading this I have been in contact with Dr Dunlop and she tells me that the Phase 1 trials to establish the safety of high doses of L-Serine on ALS patients should be complete by the end of November; http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show?term=L-serine&rank=2 . 
    I have also just read Robert H Olley's piece on halting Alzheimer's disease in rats;  http://www.science20.com/beamlines/blog/halting_neurodegeneration_mice_%E2%80%94_possible_cure_alzheimers-122127#comment-163989 and I notice that this treatment also relates to misfolding proteins and I wonder if it might be applicable to ALS.
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    Thank you Helen for this article. As a result of reading this I have been in contact with Dr Dunlop and she tells me that the Phase 1 trials to establish the safety of high doses of L-Serine on ALS patients should be complete by the end of November; http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show?term=L-serine&rank=2 .
    Thanks for this very positive and informative feedback Brent. Lets hope that L-Serine as a medicine lives up to its high hopes and expectations and becomes an effective medical treatment as soon as possible for potentially up to 90% of Lou Gehrig's ALS&MND sufferers and possibly for treating other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's where accidental ingestion and bioaccumulation of BMAA from our water and food supply has also been implicated and for which until now there has been no medical cure. 

    Dr Rachael Dunlop and Dr Paul Cox and their team are doing marvellous research, I hope that they are receiving all of the funding that she said they need for their future research. In the meantime, all we can do here at Science20 is to try to keep increasing awareness of the potential causes and effects of for example toxic blue green algal blooms worldwide that is being identified by scientific research in the hope that at least the anthropogenic causes will be addressed and treatments will be found.

    Steven Palumbi who studies the way humanity and ocean life interact and intertwine offers insights into our codependence in the pyramid of life and offers ideas for protecting both the ocean and ourselves....

    'There's a tight and surprising link between the ocean's health and ours', says marine biologist Stephen Palumbi. He shows how toxins at the bottom of the ocean food chain find their way into our bodies, with a shocking story of toxic contamination from a Japanese fish market. His work points a way forward for saving the oceans' health -- and humanity's. For example in this TED talk he says :- 
    'PCBs accumulate. We have great examples of that, unfortunately. PCBs accumulate in dolphins in Sarasota Bay, in Texas, in North Carolina. They get into the food chain. The dolphins eat the fish that have PCBs from the plankton, and those PCBs, being fat-soluble,accumulate in these dolphins. Now, a dolphin, mother dolphin, any dolphin -- there's only one way that a PCB can get out of a dolphin. And what's that? In mother's milk. Here's a diagram of the PCB load of dolphins in Sarasota Bay. Adult males: a huge load. Juveniles: a huge load. Females after their first calf is already weaned: a lower load. Those females, they're not trying to. 
    Those females are passing the PCBs in the fat of their own mother's milk into their offspring, and their offspring don't survive. The death rate in these dolphins, for the first calf born of every female dolphin, is 60 to 80 percent. These mothers pump their first offspring full of this pollutant, and most of them die. Now, the mother then can go and reproduce, but what a terrible price to pay for the accumulation of this pollutant in these animals -- the death of the first-born calf.'
    Dead dolphin calf - www.newsbythesecond.com

    Could this also be happening in humans? Are our first born breastfed babies being poisoned by their mother's milk? Maybe women and even men could be artificially stimulated to produce breast milk without a pregnancy and then be able to remove PCB and other bioaccumulative toxins from their bodies? Probably yet more research is needed :)
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    The great thing about these trials is that L-serine is already widely available without prescription, so if the phase 1 trials prove that such high doses are safe, then anyone could try it without having to be enrolled in a trial, of course we will have to wait for the results of further trials to establish what benefit there might be, but hope for the best. Meanwhile, we will watch for future development of GSK2606414 (see link above regarding neurodegeneration in mice) It does look as if it could be equally applicable to ALS/MND patients, and the results so far look very promising.
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    All over the world people are taking blue green algae spirulina dietary health supplements. There are many Youtube videos proclaiming the wonders of spirulina blue green algae as a food source. 

    This one in particular called 'Spirulina-The Amazing Algae' is even quite impressive, it tells us that at the 1974 United Nations World Food Conference it was announced that spirulina is the most ideal food for mankind, that the single celled algae uses photosynthesis and nutrients to create proteins, sugars, fatty acids and vitamins as well as all the important minerals that our bodies need and contains the strength of life's vital forces. The documentary also claims that it is eaten by Apollo astronauts and that President Obama's family are very interested in spirulina!

    This forum article is primarily discussing the repercussions of the recent research results showing that neurotoxic BMAA in blue green algae can bioaccumulate in people and their food and that this is potentially causing up to 90% of MND and Lou Gehrig's ALS and has also been linked to the global epidemic of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases. Now spirulina is naturally therefore a cause for concern because as Wikipedia points out :-
    Spirulina is a cyanobacterium that can be consumed by humans and animals and is made primarily from two species of cyanobacteria: Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima.
    Arthrospira is cultivated worldwide; used as a dietary supplement as well as a whole food; and is available in tablet, flake and powder form. It is also used as a feed supplement in the aquacultureaquarium and poultry industries.[1]
    Quality-related safety issues
    Spirulina is a form of cyanobacterium, some of which are known to produce toxins such as microcystinsBMAA, and others. Some spirulina supplements have been found to be contaminated with microcystins, albeit at levels below the limit set by the Oregon Health Department.[21] Microcystins can cause gastrointestinal disturbances and, in the long term, liver cancer. The effects of chronic exposure to even very low levels of microcystins are of concern, because of the potential risk of cancer.[21]
    These toxic compounds are not produced by spirulina itself,[22] but may occur as a result of contamination of spirulina batches with other, toxin-producing, blue-green algae. Because spirulina is considered a dietary supplement in the U.S., there is no active, industry-wide regulation of its production and no enforced safety standards for its production or purity.[21] 
    The U.S. National Institutes of Health describes spirulina supplements as "possibly safe", provided they are free of microcystin contamination, but "likely unsafe" (especially for children) if contaminated.[23] Given the lack of regulatory standards in the U.S., some public-health researchers have raised the concern that consumers cannot be certain that spirulina and other blue-green algae supplements are free of contamination.[21]
    Heavy-metal contamination of spirulina supplements has also raised concern. The Chinese State Food and Drug Administration reported that leadmercury, and arsenic contamination was widespread in spirulina supplements marketed in China.[24]
    Safety issues for certain target groups
    Due to very high Vitamin K content, patients undergoing anticoagulant treatments should not change consumption patterns of spirulina without seeking medical advice to adjust the level of medication accordingly.
    Like all protein-rich foods, spirulina contains the essential amino acid phenylalanine (2.6-4.1 g/100 g),[3] which should be avoided by people who have phenylketonuria, a rare genetic disorder that prevents the body from metabolizing phenylalanine, which then builds up in the brain, causing damage.[25]
    In vitro research The primary active component of spirulina is Phycocyanobilin, which constitutes about 1% of Spirulina by weight.[26][27] This compound inhibits NADPH oxidase.[28]Spirulina has been studied in vitro against HIV,[29] as an iron-chelating agent,[30] and as a radioprotective agent.[31] Animal studies have evaluated spirulina in the prevention of chemotherapy-induced heart damage,[32] stroke recovery,[33] age-related declines in memory,[34] diabetes mellitus,[35] in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,[36] and in rodent models of hay fever.[37]
    So spirulina is a blue green algae that can be easily contaminated by other blue green algae and even heavy metals that we know are neurotoxic and there is no way for most people buying or even producing spirulina of even knowing if this potentially deadly contamination has happened. 

    People suffering from MND and ALS and even age related memory loss often associated with dementia and Alzheimer's are even being advised by some practitioners to take these blue green algae spirulina supplements that may contain neurotoxic BMAA that has been shown to be potentially causing their illnesses.

    How can we now get the message across to the world that some of these blue green algae spirulina supplements that are often being made in people's own backyards are potentially neurotoxic, bioaccumulative and very dangerous both for the humans and animals that they are being fed to?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
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    Tests find excessive lead in spirulina products see this 2012 China Post news article  :-
    BEIJING/KUNMING China Daily/Asia News Network--The producers of spirulina products are facing a credibility crisis after a report claimed excessive lead was found in the popular dietary supplement sold in China.
    Samples of eight popular brands of spirulina products were purchased from drug stores, supermarkets and shopping centers in Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei province.
    Six of the eight Chinese and foreign brands tested contained excessive levels of lead, the report said. The tests were conducted at different organizations and qualified by China's Certification and Accreditation Administration.

    The six brands included U-Ways, Green-A and Cont-healthy, Xinhua reported on March 28. Cont-healthy, a U.S. brand, exceeded the acceptable limit by 820 percent, it said.

    Normally, China does not allow a kilogram of a food product to contain more than 0.5 milligram of lead. Excessive lead can harm the digestive, nervous and reproductive systems and cause stomachaches, anemia and convulsions.

    Representatives of Cont-healthy were not available for comment.

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
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    I posted a comment on the Science20 News Staff article called 'Retired Football Player Brain Scans Show Profound Abnormalities' that I think is relevant here. Basically the article points out :-
    Worrisome news for retired American football players. Though former players in a new preliminary study were not diagnosed with any neurological condition, brain imaging tests revealed unusual activity that correlated with how many times they had left the field with a head injury during their careers - profound abnormalities, the authors note.
    Previous research has determined that former American football players experience higher rates of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease but the new results suggest that players also face a risk of subtle neurological deficits that don't show up on normal clinical tests. It study involved 13 former National Football League (NFL) professionals who believed they were suffering from neurological problems affecting their everyday lives as a consequence of their careers.
    Now most people have heard of Lou Gehrig the famous American baseballer who gave his name to the disease Lou Gehrig's ALS (which we call MND in Australia). Well it occurred to me that maybe in the light of the recent evidence that BMAA has been linked directly to ALS/MND as well as to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases and that being a sportsman is also a well known high risk occupation for developing these disorders, that just maybe there is toxic blue green algae/cyanobacteria and their toxic BMAA present in large quantities in the damp soil and the highly fertilized turf of the sports fields where these players spend so much of their lives? Consequently they may be having high physical contact with blue green algae/cyanobacteria and BMAA on their skin, in their mouths, through cuts and grazes and also by inhaling aspirated spray (apparently one of the most effective routes for developing and bioaccumulating BMAA toxicity).

    Some quick research showed me that blue green algae and cyanobacteria are definitely a problem for commercial turf management, so I posted the following comment there and now here :-

    'Is it possible that these sportsmen's regular exposure to cyanobacteria and blue green algae that are a common problem in the maintenance of the turf on sporting fields (see page 588 of this document called 'TURF INSECT CONTROL IN COMMERCIAL TURF') is potentially causing the increased levels of Lou Gehrig's disease ALS/MND recorded in sportsmen, as well as this increased incidence of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases in American football players that is being reported here? '

    'Toxic blue green algae and cyanobacteria contain BMAA which can be present in our water and bioaccumulative in our food supply and also within us and it has recently been shown to be responsible for potentially causing up to 90% of Lou Gehri'gs ALS and MND. It has also been directly linked to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, see this article by Dr Rachael Dunlop. β-Methylamino-L-alanine, or BMAA, is a neurotoxin. This non-proteinogenic amino acid (very similar to the non-essential amino acid alanine) is produced by cyanobacteria and cycads.'
    According to Wikipedia :-
    Lou Gehrig was voted the greatest first baseman of all time by the Baseball Writers' Association in 1969, and was the leading vote-getter on the Major League Baseball All-Century Team chosen by fans in 1999. A monument in Gehrig's honor, originally dedicated by the Yankees in 1941, currently resides in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, given annually to the MLB player best exhibiting the integrity and character of Gehrig, was named in the first baseman's honor.
    When the Yankees began their 1939 spring training in St. Petersburg, Florida, it was clear that Gehrig no longer possessed his once-formidable power. Even Gehrig's base running was affected, and at one point he collapsed at Al Lang Field, then the Yankees' spring training park. By the end of spring training, Gehrig had not hit a home run. Throughout his career, Gehrig was considered an excellent baserunner, but as the 1939 season got under way, his coordination and speed had deteriorated significantly.
    Also, the fact that a significantly high percentage of American footballers then go on to develop Alzheimer's and Parkinson's may not necessarily be as a direct or indirect result of the head injuries that they sustained while playing. 

    I think that it is more likely or at least very possible that like Lou Gehrig in the very early stages of his neurodegenerative disease, many of these American football players who possibly already had toxic BMAA bioaccumulating in their bodies, were more likely to gradually become less coordinated as Lou Gehrig obviously did and as a result of this they would probably sustain more head injuries than the average player, especially in such a notoriously high contact and dangerous sport as American football.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
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    Here is a TED  talk given by Dr Paul Alan Cox explaining how blue green algae and toxic BMAA can potentially be causing up to 90% of ALS, as well as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and how an L-Serine treatment is currently being tested to treat ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases by hopefully reversing or preventing the misfolding of the proteins caused by BMAA. 

    The PLOSONE article called 'The Non-Protein Amino Acid BMAA Is Misincorporated into Human Proteins in Place of l-Serine Causing Protein Misfolding and Aggregation' produced by Rachael Anne Dunlop, Paul Alan Cox, Sandra Anne Banack, Kenneth John Rodgers has currently received the following media coverage :-

    http://www.abc.net.au/sci...
    http://www.sciencealert.c...
    http://www.abc.net.au/new...
    http://www.abc.net.au/pm/...
    http://www.sbs.com.au/new...
    http://newsroom.uts.edu.a...
    http://english.cntv.cn/20...
    http://lifescientist.com....
    http://www.mndaust.asn.au...
    http://mndresearch.wordpr...
    http://article.wn.com/vie...
    http://www.china.org.cn/w...
    http://innovation.top10-d...
    http://www.farmingahead.c...
    http://www.2ser.com/food/...
    http://fssalerts.wordpres...
    http://www.ecoscopeenviro...
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/...
    http://www.kevinrudd.org/...
    http://www.allvoices.com/...
    http://huffduffer.com/rea...
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
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    Every day adults and children are ignoring the many 'toxic blue green algae' warning signs erected by Ballina Council at Lake Ainsworth and also at Baywood Chase lake in Suffolk park. The possible short and long term health consequences of blue green algae exposure are alarming to many but unfortunately not alarming enough to some. 
    I was given a $300 fine for sitting with my dogs 5 meters beyond a 'dogs are not allowed past this point' sign at Brunswick Heads Beach, while I was on my mobile phone contacting the police during an emergency suicide intervention while working as an in shift support supervisor for a crisis phone line. 

    I was trying to keep my male dogs away from a loose young female Collie dog bitch on heat who was further down the beach in the dog's are OK zone. I explained all of this to the 2 rangers and the female Collie dog on heat even ran up to my dogs and had sex with them while we were talking but all that the rangers cared about was the fact that I had ignored the sign and that this might have upset the Little Tern's breeding cycle on the long isolated 15 kilometre beach that stretched ahead all the way to Byron Bay! Why do rangers not seem to be equally as concerned about the long term survival rates of our little children swimming and canoeing in toxic blue green algae lakes I wonder?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
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    Here is an article by Dr Rachel Dunlop called 'BIG NEWS ABOUT AUSTRALIA'S BIG BLOOMS' announcing that :- 
    We're proud to announce a new collaboration between UTS and MQ scientists in the search for environmental triggers for MND. Back in September 2013, UTS researchers announced the first plausible mechanism for a toxin found in blue green algae triggering sporadic MND.
    Now, in collaboration with the Macquarie University Motor Neurone Disease Research Centre, a team consisting of Dr Ken Rodgers (UTS), Dr Rachael Dunlop (UTS), Prof Gilles Guillemin (MQ), and Prof Dominic Rowe (MQ) plan to begin the first ever Australian studies looking at the link between exposure to blue green algae and increased risk of contracting MND.

    Blue green algae (correctly known as cyanobacteria) are most commonly associated with nutrient run-off in coastal waters and produce a neurotoxic amino acid called BMAA. 

    The evidence for algal toxins being a risk factor in triggering MND has been studied overseas for many years, including on Guam where it was reported that consuming fruit bats with high levels of BMAA was linked to a 50-100 times greater incidence of MND.

    Since then, studies from the US have shown a 10-25 times greater risk in people living adjacent to lakes subject to frequent algal blooms, and a 2-3 times greater risk in soldiers returning from the Gulf War where the desert crusts were coated in BMAA.

    Consuming large amounts of seafood that grows in waters contaminated with blue green algae has also been identified as a risk factor for MND, in particular mussels, crabs, prawns, lobsters and, shark fin. BMAA has also been found in the brains of patients who died from MND and Alzheimer’s disease.

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine

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