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Center for


Environment & Society

Neurotoxic Effects of Pesticides


Date: 2:00pm EDT April 12

A talk by Dr. Vanessa Fitsanakis in collaboration with the Toll S. Fellows Program and the Center for Environment & Society.

Washington College’s Center for Environment & Society and the Toll S. Fellows Program present a talk by Dr. Vanessa Fitsanakis on the Neurotoxic effects of pesticides.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease in the United States. As with many complex neurodegenerative diseases, both a genetic vulnerability and environmental insult appear to be required to initiate the disease. In this context, my lab is studying these gene by environment interactions (gene X environment) using multiple strains of the small worm C. elegans that are exposed to the fungicide manzate. This fungicide, which contains both manganese and zinc, has been shown to adversely affect mitochondria, increase oxidative stress, and promote neurodegeneration in C. elegans. All of these endpoints are also commonly observed in many neurodegenerative diseases, including PD.

Vanessa A. Fitsanakis, PhD, grew up as an eighth-generation farmer on land that has been in her family since the late 1700s. After finishing her BS in Chemistry, she completed an MSc in Science and Technology Studies at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland) on a full fellowship from Rotary International. She then earned her PhD in Neuroscience, with an emphasis in Toxicology, where she began her studies in to neurotoxicity of pesticides. Her current work examines how genetic mutations may make people more vulnerable to pesticide exposure, which may lead to Parkinson’s disease. Over the last 13 years, Dr. Fitsanakis has trained over 40 undergraduate students, many of whom have publications in toxicology journals from their undergraduate research in her lab.