Chronic exposure to methyl-mercury increases of neurodegenerative disease

Amount of total mercury and methylmercury found in different parts of the brains of rats which have chronic and low dose intake of methl-mercury Copyright : The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

The research team led by Prof. Samuel Lo, Associate Head of the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology, recently discovered that chronic exposure to low-dose methyl-mercury, an environmental contaminant commonly found in seafood, may increase the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease.

n their study of rats chronically exposed to low doses of methyl-mercury, the researchers concluded that the cerebellum accumulates the largest amount of mercury, followed by the , and somatosensory cortex. Another important finding of this study was that in addition to methyl-mercury, the brain also accumulates other forms of mercury. In cases of acute mercury poisoning, such as that seen in Minamata disease, the neuro-sensory pathway seems to be affected first. The researchers employed advanced proteomic techniques to investigate in the somatosensory cortices of rats intoxicated with low-dose methyl-mercury. They found the expression of 104 out of 973 proteins to decrease by at least 50% after exposure to mercury contaminants.

Among these down-regulated proteins, 18% were found to be related to the cytoskeleton, 26% to , 18% to protein metabolism, and 20% to neurotransmitter release and signal transduction. The combined effects of these down-regulated proteins appear to suppress normal neuronal functions to an enormous degree, including the ability to repair the cerebrum itself. These results led the researchers to the conclusion that chronic exposure to low-dose methyl-mercury may increase the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease.

This article was first appeared on the PolyU Milestone, June 2011 Edition

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Mercury can travel long distances

Dec 12, 2005

University of Washington scientists say they may have determined why mercury in the atmosphere might be washed out more easily than earlier believed.

Dental chair a possible source of neurotoxic mercury waste

Mar 26, 2008

Mercury is a large component of dental fillings, but it is not believed to pose immediate health risks in that form. When exposed to sulfate-reducing bacteria, however, mercury undergoes a chemical change and becomes methylated, ...

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

8 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

8 hours ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

8 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments