Division of
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12:00 PM


01:00 PM


IB 3106


Event details

The Connection Between Cyanobacteria and Human Neurological Disease

Date & Time

Time: 12:00-13:00 pm (CST), Sep.19th

Venue: IB3106

Zoom ID: 715 337 7467

*Light refreshments will be provided


Dr. Sandra Banack

The Senior Scientist at the nonprofit Brain Chemistry Labs in Jackson Hole, WY.


Cyanobacteria are ubiquitous and produce many types of toxins including the neurotoxic isomers β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), N-(2aminoethyl)glycine (AEG), and 2,4-diaminobuytric acid (DAB).  The toxins have been found in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and represent a world-wide human health risk.  The biomagnification of BMAA has been directly linked to the diet of villagers in Guam where a disease known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / Parkinsonism Dementia Complex (ALS/PDC) occurs.  Low, chronic, dietary BMAA produces the brain neuropathology of Alzheimer’s Disease and the spinal pathology of ALS in a non-human primate model.  Research to block the action of BMAA has lead to a new drug therapy and indirectly to diagnostic biomarkers. 


Dr. Sandra Banack is the Senior Scientist at the nonprofit Brain Chemistry Labs in Jackson Hole, WY.  She received her Ph.D. in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley working in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Dr. Banack left a full professor position at California State University, Fullerton Department of Biological Science to join the non-profit Brain Chemistry Labs where their only goal is to change neurodegenerative disease patient outcomes. She is among four scientific researchers at the center of a global consortium of 50+ scientists focused on determining causes and developing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s and other brain tangle diseases.  

Her research has identified the link between the environmental neurotoxin, β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) and neurodegenerative disease.  BMAA is naturally produced by cyanobacteria, blue-green algae, and biomagnifies through ecosystems around the world, which can lead to an increased risk of human exposure.   This discovery of biomagnification, together with the consortium scientists, has shut down the consumption of shark-fin soup at all Chinese government functions and now helps to protect sharks from human consumption.  

Dr. Banack’s research has also led to the discovery of a naturally occurring molecule that could be an evolutionary remnant our genetic code, prior to the development of DNA.  Dr. Banack has published more than 95 scientific papers in such prestigious journals as Science, Neurology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Proceedings of the Royal Society B, and is co-editor of one book.  Her current research on exosomes provides a way to examine what is happening in the brain by looking at blood samples.  This research opens the door to understanding if drugs are working in the brain through a simple blood test.  She has recently developed new diagnostic biomarkers for both Alzheimer’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.