Researchers in Australia identify how blue-green algae may cause some cases of MND

A toxin known as β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA), which is found in blue-green algae, has been shown to cause proteins inside cells to clump together and cause cell death.

This finding suggests that BMAA may be a cause of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and MND and could lead to the development of new treatments.

What is BMAA?

BMAA is a non-protein amino acid. This means, that unlike the 20 amino acids that our bodies use to make proteins, it does not make a human protein.

BMAA is found in a type of bacteria called Cyanobacteria (more commonly known as blue-green algae), which are usually found in waterways as well as damp soil and on the roots of cycad plants.

Blue-green algae can occasionally cause algal blooms. This is when there is a rapid growth of organisms due to high levels of nutrients in the water. The resulting bloom can sometimes become so large that it can be toxic to wildlife.

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Tuesday evening – the night before Symposium

At 6pm this evening, there was a real air of anticipation at the conference hotel. On level 2 the poster presenters were gradually finding their allocated slots and gaps were being filled. Up the escalator on level 3, the registration desk has now closed for the night. It will open again at 6am in the morning, ready to register another few hundred delegates. The lanyards are neatly rolled, the bags stacked tidy and ready for their eager recipients. A snake of coffee cups is ready for that all-important mid-morning energy boost.

Getting into the lift is like entering a who’s who of the MND world, international scientists and clinicians greeting each other and exchanging stories on jet lag, holiday plans and of course the results from their lab or scientific gossip.

As well as soaking up this atmosphere, today I’ve been busy putting Kate and Kelly’s plans for the poster session into action. The poster session is arguably the most interactive part of the meeting, an opportunity to share a hard copy of your presentation with a (possible) 600 people is valuable. They may pass on the next tips to helping get that experiment to work or you may set up a new collaboration or redirect your research. However, in order for this all to happen, 300-ish 2m high and 1m wide boards, need to be individually assigned to specific posters, in an order that (I hope) the delegates will follow. Thanks to Harriet for all her help with sorting this out.

Across the road from the hotel is the Queen Victoria Building shopping arcade. It is beautifully decorated for Christmas – there are only a few weeks to go. But for Symposium delegates it is only one more sleep before our excitement begins!