Scientists and researchers discovered over a dozen dolphins stranded on the beaches of Florida and Massachusetts to have brains full of amyloid plaques, which is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a report by Science Alert.
Besides finding the Alzheimer’s-like plaques, the team of scientists led by Dr. David Davis, from the University of Miami Neurology Department, found BMAA, an environmental toxin that has long been suspected to be the cause of neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
“We found β-amyloid plaques and damaged neurons in brain tissues from dolphins that had died,” Davis said.
In 2017, dolphins are the only known marine animal that shows signs of Alzheimer’s.
“Dolphins are excellent sentinel species for toxic exposures in the marine environment,” Deborah Mash, a neurologist from the University of Miami, told EurekAlert. “With increasing frequency and duration of cyanobacterial blooms in coastal waters, dolphins might provide early warning of toxic exposures that could impact human health.”
They have also found chronic dietary exposure to BMAA, another toxin that triggers the plaques and neuro fibrillary tangles, both hallmarks the disease in laboratory animals.
Paul Alan Cox, an ethnobotanist at the Brain Chemistry Labs in Jackson Hole, found that the neuropathology and toxins found in the brains of the dolphins are similar to those found in the brains of the villagers in Guam, who suffered Alzheimer’s-like disease.
“The $64,000 question is whether these marine mammals experienced cognitive deficits and disorientation that led to their beaching,” Cox said in a statement. “Until further research clarifies this question, people should take simple steps to avoid cyanobacterial exposure.”