Baltic algal blooms linked to nerve disease

The seasonal outbreaks of blue-green algae in the Baltic Sea emit a nerve poison which can have a link to Alzheimer's, Parkínson's and Lou Gehrig's disease, Swedish researchers have claimed, according to a report in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) daily on Monday.

Baltic algal blooms linked to nerve disease

The samples, small pieces of muscle, blood, hair and spinal fluid are being held in deep-freeze storage in at the Department of Botany. In another freezer at the university there is a further selection of samples from healthy people to be used for a comparative study.

But according to Sara Jonasson, one of the research team at Stockholm University, the researchers lack the necessary funding to forward their analysis, SvD reported.

The Swedish researchers, led by Birgitta Bergman, were informed by US colleague Paul Cox that the blue-green algae can generate BMAA – a poison linked to the high incidence of Lou Gehrig’s, formally known as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, among the residents of Guam in the south Pacific.

The Swedish team have since tested and found traces of BMAA in the Baltic algae but a lack of funding has put a stop to tests on the human samples.

In order to conduct a comprehensive analysis the researchers would need to acquire a mass spectrometer – a piece of equipment which costs in the region of 2.5-4 million kronor ($332,000 – $531,000).

The researchers must currently wait their turn in a long queue for time on the spectrometer at another of the university’s institutions in order to analyze a large number of samples from algae, fish and other organisms.

The researchers want to complete their analysis of the samples before using the precious human samples in their research.

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