July 12, 2016

Health sciences prof receives $1.68 million to study if dietary factors may have a role in Parkinson's disease

Cannon-grant Jason Cannon, an associate professor of toxicology in the School of Health Sciences, received a $1.68 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to study if a probable carcinogen formed when grilling meat at high temperatures also is a neurotoxin linked to Parkinson's disease. (Purdue University photo/Rebecca Wilcox) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A Purdue University health sciences professor received a $1.68 million grant to study if a probable carcinogen formed when grilling meat at high temperatures also is a neurotoxin linked to Parkinson's disease.

Jason Cannon, an associate professor of toxicology in the School of Health Sciences, received the five-year grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

"Other researchers have found that the class of compounds heterocyclic aromatic animes are probable carcinogens, and one of these cancer scientists shared with me that while the animals in their study were exposed to the carcinogen, they also experienced neurological problems," said Cannon, who studies dietary toxins and neurological disease. "My lab's work has found that when we isolate neurons in cultures and expose cells to reasonable doses of these compounds, yes, we see the same types of neurons lost in Parkinson's disease."

Heterocyclic aromatic animes are found in many foods, but at especially high levels in meat cooked at high temperatures, such as grilling.

Cannon will study this compound's effects more in depth in cell cultures and animal models to understand the molecular and biochemical mechanisms as well as the pathology. Cannon's study also will look at gene environment interactions, as most cases of Parkinson's disease are likely caused by genetic susceptibility and environmental exposures.

In Parkinson's disease, dopaminergic neurons in one very small brain region are affected, though the disease affects many systems. Parkinson's affects more than one million Americans and causes people to lose motor function. Many other symptoms occur, such as sleep disorders, gastrointestinal dysfunction and speech impediments.  

 "Much of the toxicity research related to Parkinson's disease focuses on exposure from pesticides or industry, but these exposures are likely pretty rare or at low doses for the average person," Cannon said. "We're interested in looking at factors that people potentially encounter every day. "

Cannon is collaborating with Jean-Christophe (Chris) Rochet, Purdue professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology; Robert Turesky, professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Minnesota; Alison E. Director-Myska, senior science and technology manager at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency; and Kenneth Turteltaub, division leader of the Biosciences and Biotechnology Division at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Jason Cannon, cannonjr@purdue.edu

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