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article imageNatural organic compound may help prevent, treat Alzheimer’s

By Bob Ewing     Sep 30, 2009 in Health
Researchers at the Monell Centre have found oleocanthal, a naturally-occurring compound found in extra-virgin olive oil, alters the structure of neurotoxic proteins.
The Centre's press release states the researchers believe the compound alters the structure of these neurotoxic proteins which are thought to contribute to the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
The structural change that results will impede the proteins’ ability to damage brain nerve cells.
“The findings may help identify effective preventative measures and lead to improved therapeutics in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease,” study co-leader Paul A.S. Breslin, PhD, a sensory psychobiologist at the Monell Center said in the press release.
The toxic proteins are known as ADDLs and they bind within the neural synapses of the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. They are also thought to directly disrupt nerve cell function, eventually leading to memory loss, cell death, and global disruption of brain function. Synapses are specialized junctions that allow one nerve cell to send information another.
“Binding of ADDLs to nerve cell synapses is thought to be a crucial first step in the initiation of Alzheimer’s disease. Oleocanthal alters ADDL structure in a way that deters their binding to synapses,” said William L. Klein, PhD, who co-led the research with Breslin.
“Translational studies are needed to link these laboratory findings to clinical interventions.”
The team identified ADDLs in 1998. This discovery led to a major shift in thinking about the causes, progression and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Breslin said. “If antibody treatment of Alzheimer’s is enhanced by oleocanthal, the collective anti-toxic and immunological effects of this compound may lead to a successful treatment for an incurable disease. Only clinical trials will tell for sure.”
The research will appear in the October 15 issue of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.
First author Jason Pitt, a graduate student in Klein’s lab, conducted the studies. Also contributing to the work were chemist Amos B. Smith, III, of Monell and the University of Pennsylvania, who supplied the oleocanthal; William Roth, Pascale Lacor and Pauline Velasco from Northwestern; Matthew Blankenship from Western Illinois University; and Fernanda De Felice from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. In addition to his faculty appointment at Monell, Breslin is Professor of Nutritional Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University.
The National Institute on Aging funded the research; Dr. Breslin is funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
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