Thomas Wydra/Wikimedia Commons
The compound that gives mold its musty smell can cause changes in fruit flies’ brains that mimic those of patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Scientists do not know the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease, but studies have shown that exposure to human-made chemicals may be a risk factor for developing the movement disorder.
Now researchers have found that the chemical 1-octen-3-ol, which mold naturally emits, kills flies’ brain cells that transmit dopamine, a compound involved in controlling movement. The mold molecule also reduces dopamine levels in the flies’ brains. In experiments with human cells, the mold chemical also blocked the cells from taking in dopamine, researchers report November 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The results offer insight into cases of movement problems that doctors have associated with fungi exposure, the scientists say.