This post introduces a new twist to “News Behind the Neuroscience News”. This report was graciously submitted by Ms Pamela Brown of associatesdegree.com. I welcome her initiative in submitting this. On a side note, when I did factory work in the 1970s, trichloroethylene was a universal solvent used to clean parts. Wow. We will add more to the story as Researchers continue their studies. Thank you Pamela!
Of Chemicals and Parkinson’s Disease
Two recent studies have linked the chemical TCE, an industrial solvent, to the increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. The first study, led by the University of Kentucky’s Don M. Gash and John T. Slevin, established a clear link between trichloroethylene and parkinsonism , which is a group of nervous disorders closely associated with Parkinson’s.
The study investigated a group of people who had been occupationally exposed to TCE for over twenty-five years. Gash and Slevin found that of the 134 participants interviewed, 14–the group that worked closest to the TCE vat cleaning industrial parts–showed strong signs of Parkinsonism. 13 other patients who had worked further from the TCE source also showed signs of the disorder, although in milder form. The University of Kentucky study extended its investigation by exposing rats to TCE. The rats’ mitochondrial function was substantially inhibited and their dopamine-producing cells were severely damaged.
A more recent study , revealed in January, established an even stronger link between TCE and Parkinson’s. Dr. Samuel Goldman, a researcher at the Parkinson’s Institute in Sunnyvale, California, examined 99 sets of twins in which one twin had Parkinson’s and the other didn’t. Goldman and his team gathered job histories from the group of twins and had an industrial hygienist evaluate the twins’ level of chemical exposure. The study found that those exposed to TCE had an almost six-fold increased risk of developing Parkinson’s. Occupations that often involve exposure to TCE include machinists, laundry cleaners, and electricians.
Even though the most recent findings are substantial, the idea that chemicals may be associated with increased risk of developing Parkinson’s is not very new. Earlier studies have suggested that certain pesticides and herbicides may increase risk as well.
Not all chemicals are bad news for Parkinson’s patients. A brain chemical, identified only about twenty years ago and named after the video game character, Sonic Hedgehog , has been shown to decrease the risk of developing Parkinson’s, meaning that increasing the chemical may be a viable treatment for the disease. Another study has suggested that urate, a naturally occurring chemical in the blood, may slow the progression of Parkinson’s, although the chemical has been proven to cause gout.