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Red, red wine: How it fights Alzheimer's
Published: Friday, November 21, 2008 - 10:51 in Health & Medicine
Learn more about: alzheimer cognitive deterioration heart disease research
journal of biological chemistry mt sinai school of medicine red red wine
Scientists call it the "French paradox" — a society that, despite consuming
food high in cholesterol and saturated fats, has long had low death rates from
heart disease. Research has suggested it is the red wine consumed with all that
fatty food that may be beneficial — and not only for cardiovascular health but
in warding off certain tumors and even Alzheimer's disease. Now, Alzheimer's
researchers at UCLA, in collaboration with Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New
York, have discovered how red wine may reduce the incidence of the disease.
Reporting in the Nov. 21 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, David
Teplow, a UCLA professor of neurology, and colleagues show how naturally
occurring compounds in red wine called polyphenols block the formation of
proteins that build the toxic plaques thought to destroy brain cells, and
further, how they reduce the toxicity of existing plaques, thus reducing
Polyphenols comprise a chemical class with more than 8,000 members, many of
which are found in high concentrations in wine, tea, nuts, berries, cocoa and
various plants. Past research has suggested that such polyphenols may inhibit
or prevent the buildup of toxic fibers composed primarily of two proteins —
Aß40 and Aß42 — that deposit in the brain and form the plaques which have long
been associated with Alzheimer's. Until now, however, no one understood the
mechanics of how polyphenols worked.
Teplow's lab has been studying how amyloid beta (Aß) is involved in causing
Alzheimer's. In this work, researchers monitored how Aß40 and Aß42 proteins
folded up and stuck to each other to produce aggregates that killed nerve cells
in mice. They then treated the proteins with a polyphenol compound extracted
from grape seeds. They discovered that polyphenols carried a one-two punch:
They blocked the formation of the toxic aggregates of Aß and also decreased
toxicity when they were combined with Aß before it was added to brain cells.
"What we found is pretty straightforward," Teplow said. "If the Aß proteins
can't assemble, toxic aggregates can't form, and thus there is no toxicity. Our
work in the laboratory, and Mt. Sinai's Dr. Giulio Pasinetti's work in mice,
suggest that administration of the compound to Alzheimer's patients might block
the development of these toxic aggregates, prevent disease development and also
ameliorate existing disease."
Human clinical trials are next.
"No disease-modifying treatments of Alzheimer's now exist, and initial clinical
trials of a number of different candidate drugs have been disappointing,"
Teplow said. "So we believe that this is an important next step."
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