While researchers have identified certain genetic variations that cause an inherited form of Parkinson's, only a small fraction of the disease can be blamed on genes, said the study's first author, Arthur G. Fitzmaurice, a postdoctoral scholar in Bronstein's laboratory.
"As a result, environmental factors almost certainly play an important role in this disorder," Fitzmaurice said. "Understanding the relevant mechanisms particularly what causes the selective loss of dopaminergic neurons may provide important clues to explain how the disease develops."
Benomyl was widely used in the U.S. for three decades until toxicological evidence revealed it could potentially lead to liver tumors, brain malformations, reproductive effects and carcinogenesis. It was banned in 2001.
The researchers wanted to explore whether there was a relationship between benomyl and Parkinson's, which would demonstrate the possibility of long-lasting toxicological effects from pesticide use, even a decade after chronic exposure. But because a direct causal relationship between the pesticide and Parkinson's can't be established by testing humans, the investigators sought to determine if exposure in experimental models could duplicate some of the pathologic features of the disease.
They first tested the effects of benomyl in cell cultures and confirmed that the pesticide damaged or destroyed dopaminergic neurons.
Next, they tested the pesticide in a zebrafish model of the disease. This freshwater fish is commonly used in research because it is easy to manipulate genetica
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University of California - Los Angeles