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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 
cognitive deterioration.

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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