April 20, 2024

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Commonly used agricultural herbicide can cross blood-brain barrier

Commonly used agricultural herbicide can cross blood-brain barrier


Commonly used agricultural herbicide can cross blood-brain barrier.

Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease are one of the most baffling questions in medical research.

The underlying cause of these diseases can be anything from dietary influences and lifestyle decisions to genetic factors and general cardiovascular health.

Various environmental pollutants have also been implicated in the development or progression of neurological diseases.

These include glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide. Glyphosate is a widely used herbicide used on crops around the world.


In a new study , Joanna Winstone, Ramon Velazquez and their colleagues at the Translational Genomics Institute (TGen) investigated the consequences of glyphosate exposure on the mouse brain. The study shows for the first time that glyphosate can successfully cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain.

Once there, it raises levels of a key factor called TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor-alpha).




Commonly used agricultural herbicide can cross blood-brain barrier


TNF-α is a molecule with two sides. This pro-inflammatory cytokine is essential in the neuroimmune system, its function is to promote immune responses and protect the brain. (Cytokines are a broad class of small proteins essential for proper cell signaling).


However, when TNF-α levels are dysregulated, a range of neuroinflammation-related diseases can result. These include Alzheimer’s disease.


The study further demonstrated in cell culture studies that glyphosate exposure appears to increase soluble beta-amyloid (Aβ) production and reduce neuronal viability.

Aβ is the sticky protein responsible for the formation of Aβ plaques, and its accumulation is one of the core diagnostic markers of Alzheimer’s disease.


Further evidence suggesting potential harm to neurological health was observed when the researchers examined gene expression changes in the brains of mice exposed to glyphosate by RNA sequencing.


These RNA transcripts implicated disturbances in gene expression associated with neurodegenerative diseases, including dysregulation of a class of brain cells responsible for producing myelin, which is essential for normal neuronal communication.

These cells, called oligodendrocytes, are affected by elevated levels of TNF-alpha.


Commonly used agricultural herbicide can cross blood-brain barrier



“We found an increase in TNF-alpha in the brain following glyphosate exposure,” Velazquez said. “While we study the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, this may have implications for many neurodegenerative diseases, as neuroinflammation is seen in a variety of brain disorders.”


One hundred years have passed since Alzheimer’s disease was first diagnosed. Despite significant investment in research and drug development, the disease remains untreated.

One by one, a series of treatments, developed at huge expense over decades, have failed to relieve the symptoms of the disease.


Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

The progression of the disease usually begins with mild memory loss. As the disease progresses, there tends to be increasing confusion and a breakdown in communication skills, as the disease attacks the brain pathways involved in memory, language and thinking.


As of 2020, about 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Centers for Disease Research.

Unlike heart disease or cancer, Alzheimer’s death tolls are on a dire upward trajectory. By 2040, the cost of the disease is expected to rise sharply to more than $379 billion to more than $500 billion a year.

The staggering death toll from the disease is currently projected to reach 14 million by 2050.


The onset of symptoms usually occurs after age 60, with an individual’s risk doubling every 5 years after age 65.

While genetics is thought to play a role in some cases of Alzheimer’s disease, and family history of the disease is thought to be an important risk factor, environmental factors are thought to play an important role in the disease.


Researchers are trying to understand how genetically related factors interact subtly with the environment and other factors to reduce or increase the likelihood of developing the disease.

Several recent studies suggest that lifestyle changes, including adequate physical activity, nutritious food, limited alcohol consumption, and non-smoking, may help prevent or slow cognitive decline, pointing to brain and cardiovascular health are closely related.


The new study examines the neurological effects of glyphosate, the most prevalent herbicide used globally.

Each year, approximately 250 million pounds of glyphosate is applied to crops in the United States alone.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency and the European Food Safety Authority consider the chemical generally safe for humans, researchers are taking a second look.


Commonly used agricultural herbicide can cross blood-brain barrier



Studies of acute herbicide use suggest they are harmless, but little is known about the possible effects of long-term exposure.

A considerable concern is that glyphosate can cross the blood-brain barrier, a layer of endothelial cells that prevents dissolved substances in the circulating blood from easily entering the extracellular fluid of the central nervous system, where neurons in the brain reside. 



The researchers believe that the potential risks to brain health posed by glyphosate should be critically assessed, especially for those who are continuously exposed to the herbicide.

“What’s associated with Alzheimer’s disease is that the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is much higher in farming communities that use this chemical,” Winstone said. “We’re trying to make a more molecular science-based link between the two.”


The study exposed mice to high doses of glyphosate and then detected elevated levels of TNF-alpha in their brains.

The researchers then exposed the extracted mouse neurons in a petri dish to the same levels of glyphosate detected in the mouse brains and observed an increase in beta-amyloid and cell death of cortical neurons.

Dysregulated oligodendrocyte RNA transcripts were detected in brain tissue, which may indicate disruption of myelination.


Taken together, these results suggest an association between glyphosate exposure and typical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, although the authors stress that more work is needed before a causal relationship can be established.


However, the chemical’s widespread use and troubling correlations highlighted in the current study underscore the need for enhanced investigation.

Urgent questions to be answered include: how long-term, low-dose exposure to glyphosate affects the brain; whether glyphosate acts synergistically with other chemicals in common herbicides; and whether it can work in patients who die from Alzheimer’s disease Glyphosate detected?


Researchers are exploring new drugs designed to reduce TNF-alpha in the brain, offering new hope for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.





Commonly used agricultural herbicide can cross blood-brain barrier

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