This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
The scientific world reports encouraging news in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. A new study shows an antioxidant known as EGCG, a compound found in red wine and green tea, may interrupt a key step of the Alzheimer’s development process.
In the research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, scientists identified the pathway that permits harmful clumps of protein to attach to brain cells, causing them to degenerate and die. They were able to stop this insidious process that leads to the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s with purified EGCG extracts from green tea and red wine.
Alzheimer’s disease involves the accumulation of amyloid protein in the brain, which aggregates to form toxic sticky balls of different shapes. These balls bind to the surface of brain cells, causing their dysfunction and eventual death.
The researchers wanted to determine if this process of binding to brain cells was dependent upon the shape of the amyloid balls “the way a baseball fits snugly into its glove,” says coauthor Dr. Jo Rushworth. If this proved to be the case, they wanted to ascertain if changing the shape of the amyloid balls would stop them from binding to brain cells, which would in turn prevent the cells from dying, adds Rushworth.
In seeking the answers to these questions, the research team made amyloid balls in the lab then added them to animal and human brain cells. Lead author Professor Nigel Hooper reports that when they added red wine and green tea extract, the amyloid proteins were reshaped, an effect that prevented the amyloid balls from harming the brain. Because the shape of the amyloid protein was changed, the balls could no longer attach to the brain cells, disrupting their function, he explains.
Hooper also relates an additional discovery from the research. They found that when amyloid balls attach to brain cells, it stimulates the production of even more amyloid, which creates a deadly vicious cycle.
If this vicious cycle could be halted, it would be a significant step forward. The study’s results are important in increasing the understanding of the cause and advancement of Alzheimer’s disease, says Hooper. He intends to further explore the Alzheimer’s development process in future research.
These findings were released at the same time as another study in Neurology, which projects that the number of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s could triple by 2050. This would place a tremendous burden on society, not only encompassing the patients but the health care system and social safety net involving caregivers as well, researcher Jennifer Weuve tells MyHealthNewsDaily.