Preventing Alzheimer’s and Slowing ALS: The Focus of Jackson Hole Medical Research Non-Profit

Brain Chemistry Labs is breaking rules and shattering the mold of how medical research is done.

And they’re doing it solely with small grants and private donations.

Dr. Sandra Banack, senior scientist at Brain Chemistry Labs.

What began as work focused on the motor neuron disease ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) has been led by research to include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“I think we can change the world,” said Sandra Banack, senior scientist and ethnobotanist.

“What we’re doing takes a fraction of the time and a fraction of the cost,” she said.

Their work examines what is happening to people and what can be done about it.

“We’re close to a prevention, and I think that’s better than a cure.”    – Dr. Rachael Dunlop

Research shows that chronic exposure to the neurotoxin BMAA (β-Methylamino-L-alanine) found in cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae and most often pointed out by someone in my family as “that green stuff” on lakes and ponds) is a potential risk for neurodegenerative illnesses.

So they are testing and working with an amino acid called L-Serine that may counter BMAA and appears to be neuroprotective in its own right.

BMAA Surrounds Us

“We know that human health is related to environmental health,” Dr. Banack said.

People come into contact with BMAA through contaminated seafood and freshwater fish — possibly grains if they are watered by contaminated water.

And it can be in the air we breathe.

“Found in habitats ranging from the hot pools of Yellowstone to the deserts of the middle east to the middle of the oceans, cyanobacteria are nearly ubiquitous on the earth’s surface.” – Brain Chemistry Labs’ website

“This is like a slow toxin and a silent killer in a sense because we don’t know that it’s in the water that we’re drinking.

“We don’t know that it’s in the food that we’re eating.

“But we do know that it can cause neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s,” said senior research fellow, Rachael Dunlop, in the film Toxic Puzzle.

But hope is on the horizon.

“I think we can change the world,”  – Dr. Banack

Can L-Serine Forestall Alzheimer’s?

What’s already been shown in Phase I clinical trials is that L-Serine is safe for ALS patients to take at doses as high as 30 grams per day.

The data suggest that L-Serine can slow down the progression of ALS by as much as 85%.

“Our research also suggests that L-Serine may be able to push off the onset of Alzheimer’s, but there are still many experiments to do,” Dr. Banack said.

Currently L-Serine is accessible as an inexpensive and safe supplement.

And it is found in abundance in foods like sweet potatoes and soy products.

Alzheimer’s impacts millions of patients and even more family members, so the swift work of Brain Chemistry Labs matters.

Because of the positive results shown in Phase I clinical trials, the FDA has fast tracked L-Serine into Phase II Alzheimer’s trials.

The swift work of Brain Chemistry Labs matters greatly.

Alzheimer’s impacts millions of patients and even more family members.

And for ALS patients any slow down in progression translates to hope.

Once diagnosed, life expectancy averages 2.5 years.

The urgency is understood in Jackson where the time from research to clinical trials has only taken about five years.

That nimbleness is more than surprising to those of us who know the legend of drug development exceeding decades and costing billions of dollars.

Non-Profit Medical Research

Drs. Sandra Banack and Rachael Dunlop

The lean research team has fewer meetings and less bureaucracy, and that’s appealing to the scientists who work and answer the phones at Brain Chemistry Labs.

To join the research team, Sandra Banack gave up tenure-for-life in the California State University system.

And similarly, Dr. Dunlop left a Sydney, Australia university position and moved to Jackson.

“The possibilities were too big to turn down,” Dr. Banack said.

“We’re not beholden to stock holders or the stock exchange.

“It’s a different model from anything else that’s been done,” she said.

“We owe it to society to give something back,” Dr. Dunlop said.

“We exchange wisdom and pool it to solve problems.”
– Dr. Sandra Banack

Yet the work isn’t limited to this small group in northwestern Wyoming.

The Jackson team collaborates with more than 50 scientists in 28 disciplines worldwide.

“We exchange wisdom and pool it to solve problems,” Dr. Banack said.

Dr. Dunlop said, “We’re close to a prevention, and I think that’s better than a cure.”

Asked if what they’ve learned has changed their eating habits, Dr. Banack said, “I don’t eat seafood anymore.”

And Dr. Dunlop has increased her intake of soy — edamame, in particular — that she said is loaded with L-Serine.

My first order of the supplement should be here any day.

Take Action!

•  Donate to Brain Chemistry Labs.

•  Absolutely watch the 80-minute documentary, Toxic Puzzle, about BMAA, L-Serine, research and the founder of Brain Chemistry Labs, Paul Cox.

•  View Brain Chemistry Labs’ website.

•  Read a number of newspaper articles about this work.

•  See Paul Cox’s, TedX talk.

•  Read related research articles:

“Mapping amyotrophic lateral sclerosis lake risk factors across northern New England,” Nathan Torbick et al, International Journal of Health Geographics, 2014; 13: 1, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3922844/?report=classic#).

“Phase I clinical trial of safety of L-serine for ALS patients,” T.D. Levine, et al., Feb 18, 2017, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27589995#).

“Traditional Food Items in Ogimi, Okinawa: l-Serine Content and the Potential for Neuroprotection,” Paul Cox and James Metcalf, Current Nutrition Reports, 2017; 6(1): 24–31, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5343079/).

•  Previous posts of interest: Civility Leads Climate Discussion and  Charity and Social Justice:  “Distinct but Complimentary”

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Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. She is a HeartMath Certified Trainer and Coach, and certified through HeartMath to administer the Stress and Well-being Assessment tool; A Connection Practice Trainer, a Trainer’s Trainer, and Coach; and a Registered Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist (RCST®). Her website is EllenSynakowski.com.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West

Disconnect Between Animal Protection Laws and Economic Benefits of Keeping Animals Alive a Focus for Wyoming Untrapped

Tensions exist between Wyoming’s lax animal protection laws23 and research emphasizing economic benefits of keeping animals alive.24

Two sides of the same coin, says Lisa Robertson, President and Co-Founder of Wyoming Untrapped.

In 2012 this Jackson-based nonprofit formed to respond to increased trapping in the Tetons, particularly of the elusive bobcat.

Simultaneously, escalation in the number of pets caught in traps and snares was seen.

“Wyoming is treasured for its remaining wildlife, yet we punish our animals just for being a bobcat or for being a wolf.”

Wyoming Madison River bobcat. Photo credit Tom Mangelsen (see 5/6/18 60 Minutes —Into the Wild with Thomas D. Mangelsen: The renowned wildlife photographer shows 60 Minutes what goes into his iconic pictures,  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/into-the-wild-with-thomas-mangelsen/ )

A 2017 study24, 25, 26 found that ecotourism boosted a single bobcat’s one-year value to $308,000.

That represented a dollar amount nearly 1,000 times greater than income from a single trapping license and the pelt sale for the same animal.

Some believe  the new Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management degree at the University of Wyoming 27, 28 will help address this conflict.

A University web page cites “stewardship and conservation of natural resources” first in its list of what the program emphasizes.29

Full-length bobcat coats can require 35 and 50 pelts each.

More Animal Concerns

While hunting as a sport is decreasing in the the U.S.,30 Wyoming Untrapped says tens of thousands of animals are, nonetheless, trapped here each year.

And beyond traps and snares, coyote killing contests are common31 and grizzly bear hunting may soon be a reality.

All the while increased popularity of fur coats in Russia, China and European countries have quadrupled24 trapping demands.

Full-length bobcat coats can require 35 and 50 pelts each.

Wyoming bobcat – with permission from Nick Garbutt

Meanwhile, federal law (H.R. 1438) to eliminate “body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System” has been proposed. 32 

And while that might help, Wyoming has a fair distance to go with its 48th state ranking for animal cruelty laws.23

Lisa Robertson said, “Wyoming is treasured for its remaining wildlife, yet we punish our animals just for being a bobcat or for being a wolf.”

Wyoming Untrapped aims to change that.


 

Take Action!

•  Consider a donation to Wyoming Untrapped

 Learn how to release your pet from a trap with videos by
WyomingUntrapped

•  View miscellaneous educational videos from Wyoming
Untrapped

•  Read more about Project Coyote

•  Watch Ending Wildlife Killing Contests video

•  See the trailer to a documentary on wildlife killing contests,
    Killing Games: Wildlife in the the Crosshairs

•  See where your state ranks in the  2017 Trapping Report
from Born Free

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Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West

Hole Food Rescue Feeds 1,000 Hungry People Weekly in Jackson, Wyoming

Hole Food Rescue logo

Hole Food Rescue (HFR) founder and co-executive director, Ali Dunford,, is joy personified as she describes the one million pounds of food saved by her organization since 2013.

“It’s just the right thing to do. The right way to treat each other and the planet,” she said.

Her early days in Jackson included dumpster diving for goods discarded by grocery stores.

And what she found was high quality and plentiful. “It was an injustice,” she said.

“The flip side of waste is using something fully and respecting the planet and all the resources that go into the things we eat.”

With the support of 90 volunteers working seven days a week, HFR collects more than 5,000 pounds of edible items a week from local grocery stores and bakeries.

In turn, 31 recipient organizations take the fruit, vegetables, breads and dairy products and prepare or distribute this nutrients to at-risk and in-need clients including seniors, youth and families.

What can’t be used is given to a local pig farm.

“The flip side of waste is using something fully
and respecting the planet and all the resources
that go into the things we eat.”

Food insecurity in Teton

A 2015 Teton Public Health report2 found nearly 3,000 (13.5%) food insecure residents, a term that means “lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.”3

In Wyoming, 1 in 8 adults experience hunger and 1 in 6 children are food insecure.4

Though Teton is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, much of its population works in the service industry. Between the high cost of housing, low hourly wages and off-season layoffs, families struggle.

Dunford said any town — small or large — that has a grocery store has waste, and you can be sure there’s also food insecurity, though it’s not always obvious.

She says HFR’s part in social justice isn’t just about providing food; it’s about offering nutritious food.

“We don’t rescue highly-processed nor junk food,” she said. “It’s not going to serve our clients, and our goal is to empower them.”

Ali Dunford
Ali Dunford, founder and co-executive director, at Hole Food Rescue in Jackson, WY

More About Hole Food Rescue and Additional Resources
•  HFR is a 501(C)3 nonprofit organization
•  They welcomes volunteers and donations
•  Their website is beautiful and fun
•  You can see Ali and HFR featured in a public television story
•  Interested in rescue in your town? Here’s the guidebook Ali used.
•  See if there’s a rescue organization near you.
•  Read the blog post, Rooted in Wyoming, that looks at school gardens in Sheridan.


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Ellen Webster Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is:  EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”1  Cornell West