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article imageEssential Science: Can coffee help fight Parkinson’s?

By Tim Sandle     Jan 14, 2019 in Science
A new compound identified in coffee can be combined with caffeine to help to fight neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia, according to new research.
Researchers from Rutgers University (New Jersey, U.S.) have established that a combination of compounds isolated from coffee have the potential to protect against neurodegeneration. These compounds include caffeine in combination with a second compound which is found in the waxy coating of a coffee bean.
Based on the research, these two compounds could be utilized into a therapeutic agent for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological condition, where the causes problems in the brain and this condition becomes worse over time. The cause of Parkinson's disease is generally unknown, but this is believed to involve both genetic and environmental factors. There is no cure for Parkinson's disease, with treatment options directed at improving symptoms.
With the other condition, Lewy body dementia, this is a type of dementia accompanied by changes in behavior, cognition and movement. The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but involves widespread deposits of abnormal clumps of alpha-synuclein protein in neurons, known as Lewy bodies. Lewy bodies appear as spherical masses that displace other cell components.
A perfect cup of coffee served at the Mondrian hotel in London.
A perfect cup of coffee served at the Mondrian hotel in London.
Earlier research has indicated that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Sparking interest from researchers, the Rutgers University group set out to investigate the thousands of compounds present in coffee that could be attributed to this effect.
With the specific area of inquiry, science magazine Biotechniques reports that the researchers focused on one compound called eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide (EHT), which is a fatty acid derivative of serotonin. The scientists established that EHT functioned to protect the brains of mice against the abnormal protein accumulation associated with the neurodegenerative diseases.
Once this was established, an experiment was run whereby caffeine and EHT were administered to the mice. This showed that effectiveness was low when trialed individually. However, when administered together in combination of the two compounds appeared to boost the activity of a catalyst which is involved in preventing the accumulation of harmful proteins in the brain.
According to lead researcher M. Maral Mouradian: “EHT is a compound found in various types of coffee but the amount varies. It is important that the appropriate amount and ratio be determined so people don’t over-caffeinate themselves, as that can have negative health consequences.”
The next stage of the research is to determine the appropriate quantities and ratio of EHT and caffeine required for the protective effect. After this, consideration will be given to testing this out in humans.
Research paper
The research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with the paper titled “Synergistic neuroprotection by coffee components eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide and caffeine in models of Parkinson's disease and DLB.”
Essential Science
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This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. Last week we described how a new bacterium has been discovered in ancient Irish soil has been shown to be capable of halting the growth of certain ‘superbugs’. The discovery offers new hope for tackling antibiotic resistance
The week before, as part of the build-up to New Year, we discussed research looking at the biochemical processes involved with alcohol addiction and they have succeeded in identifying the pathway involved. This could assist with the treatment of alcohol related addiction
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