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Freshwater Science: Discovering a Potential Treatment for Health Effects of Algal Toxin Exposure | Ohio Sea Grant

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Freshwater Science: Discovering a Potential Treatment for Health Effects of Algal Toxin Exposure

May 16, 2024 – New research from Ohio Sea Grant, Stone Lab and the Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative

Microcystins are some of the most abundant and potent harmful algal bloom toxins and have emerged as a public health concern due to the potential to cause severe organ injury including liver damage. While currently there are no targeted therapies to protect against microcystin exposure, previous research found that naturally occurring bacteria from Lake Erie had the ability to degrade algal toxins such as microcystin.

Drs. Steven Haller and David Kennedy of The University of Toledo have made significant progress in discovering a potential treatment for microcystin exposure through probiotics. Researchers ran in vitro experiments on human liver cells as well as model experiments on mice to find out if microcystin-degrading bacteria can function as probiotics to protect against organ damage from toxin exposure.

About the Speakers

David Kennedy
David Kennedy Department of Medicine, The University of Toledo

Our lab studies how interrelated organ systems such as heart, kidney and liver regulate cellular damage (particularly inflammation and fibrosis) and repair during the course of chronic ailments such as heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and chronic kidney disease. We are particularly interested in developing new preventative and therapeutic strategies to help people suffering from these diseases through establishing novel biomarkers and molecular diagnostics to assist risk stratification as well as identifying new drugs and drug targets and enhancing endogenous counter-regulatory mechanisms. Given our community’s ties to and dependence on the Great Lakes as a source of clean water for drinking, recreation, fishing and agriculture, our laboratory also places a special emphasis on discovering new diagnostic, preventative and therapeutic strategies targeting cellular damage caused by environmental stressors that impair our land-water-food nexus.


Steven Haller
Steven Haller Department of Medicine, The University of Toledo

The overall goal of my laboratory is to interrogate the molecular mechanisms leading to the development and progression of end stage renal disease. We are focusing our efforts on the mechanisms by which activation of the CD40 receptor within the kidney leads to progressive inflammation and fibrosis with the ultimate goal of providing a therapeutic approach to inhibit the development of end stage renal disease. In addition to investigating the molecular mechanisms leading to end stage renal disease, my lab is also focused on the health effects of cyanotoxin exposure in pre-existing disease states. Importantly, as harmful algal blooms are on the rise globally and across the state of Ohio, the cyanotoxins they generate pose potentially serious health concerns to humans and animals, especially in vulnerable at-risk populations.

Freshwater Science webinar series, go.osu.edu/OSGWebinars

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