Pesticide research links chemical compound to brain disorders

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Researchers have discovered a chemical compound called glyphosate, found in common herbicides, that infiltrates the layers of cells that protect the brain. The research shows that this chemical can elevate levels of molecules associated with disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

Ramon Velasquez of Biodesign Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center and Patrick Pirrotte from Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) discuss their findings.

“Glyphosate is an herbicide that’s used in agriculture communities and sprayed in order to control crops,” Velasquez said. “A lot of the research on glyphosate has really focused on the exposure effects in terms of the peripheral body. The CDC actually recently published new reports showing that 80% of tested individuals had glyphosate detectable in urine. 87% were actually children.”

While these statistics were known, there was no research that avidly explored if glyphosate affected the brain. As humans, we have what’s called a blood brain barrier that is meant to protect us from chemicals like this.

“The blood brain barrier is a bit like a firewall that actually pushes or prevents molecules from coming into the bloodstream that is actually pervading the brain,” Pirrotte said.

The original hypothesis predicted that glyphosate would not pass through this barrier. With more research, it was found that it did. It is also pro-inflammatory, which can involve cancer as well as other brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

More research is still needed for this, which is the next direction the two researchers are taking.

“We’re actually going to look at post mortem brain tissue, the patients that have passed away with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurogenic disorders, and we’re gonna look at whether they have glyphosate detectable in the brain,” Velasquez said.

To do this, Velasquez and Pirrotte will collect post mortem tissue samples from around the valley and compare samples from patients who did have Alzheimer’s disease with donors who did not.

Ramon Velasquez Ph.D./Researcher, Biodesign Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center & Patrick Pirrotte, Ph.D./Associate Professor, Cancer and Cell Biology Division, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)

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