A study published in Science Signaling provides new information about how exposure to the industrial metal manganese can contribute to Parkinson’s-like symptoms. This link has been suspected since the 1950s when it was discovered that manganese tends to accumulate in brain tissue. The researchers used blood samples from welders, which showed that they’re at increased risk for Parkinson’s.
While a small amount of manganese is necessary for the body to function properly, this new study shows that large amounts combine with certain proteins in the brain, causing them to misfold and collect in areas called vesicles, leading to inflammation and brain and nerve issues.
The hope is that this information could help researchers develop new diagnostic tests to detect manganese and diagnose Parkinson’s earlier, which could help slow the progression of the disease and lead to more effective treatments.