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Welders Show Early Damage to Dopaminergic Neurons

Changes in nigrostriatal dopamine system may be an early marker of manganese neurotoxicity

THURSDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to manganese (Mn) fumes during welding may lead to dysfunction in the nigrostriatal dopamine system, according to a study published online April 6 in Neurology.

Susan R. Criswell, M.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues investigated whether exposure to welding fumes is associated with damage to the nigrostriatal neurons in asymptomatic workers. The study team evaluated 20 welders with no symptoms of Parkinson's disease who were exposed to Mn fumes, 20 people with idiopathic Parkinson's disease who were not welders, and 20 normal controls. The participants were examined by a movement disorders specialist and underwent positron emission tomography imaging with 6-[18F] fluoro-L-dopa (FDOPA) to assess the integrity of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway. The uptake of FDOPA Ki was measured for each region.

The researchers found that asymptomatic welders had an 11.71 percent reduction in caudate Ki uptake compared to controls. Welders were most affected in the caudate region, then the anterior putamen, and the posterior putamen. This pattern of FDOPA Ki uptake in welders was anatomically reversed compared to that seen in the subjects with idiopathic Parkinson's disease.

"The caudate Ki reduction in welders may represent an early (asymptomatic) marker of Mn neurotoxicity and appears to be distinct from the pattern of dysfunction found in symptomatic idiopathic Parkinson's disease," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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