Parkinson’s disease is a common neurodegenerative disorder, predominantly of the elderly, manifested by rigidity, tremors and movement difficulty. It results from defects within dopaminergic neurons at the substantia nigra, a portion of the midbrain and brainstem.
Although the cause of the defects is unknown in most human sufferers, it has been previously discovered that a chemical, MPTP (1-methyl-r-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine), can cause permanent Parkinson’s disease even in young people. This link was discovered in the 1980’s when IV drug addicts took a mistakenly synthesized designer drug analog of demerol (meperidine) and wound up with permanent severe Parkinson’s disease. It was subsequently discovered that MPTP and its breakdown products caused permanent toxic defects in mitochondria in selective neurons.
Rotenone, when administered IV to rats, also produced both symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and the appearance of “Lewy bodies,” a microscopic swelling of part of the neuron) a known pathology sign of the disease. Rotenone, which is a naturally occurring substance which rapidly degrades in the environment, had been considered relatively safe as compared to other pesticides.. It is unknown whether the toxic effects seen in the mice exposed to rotenone can occur in humans who eat rotenone treated vegetables.