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Discovered new active ingredient for the treatment of Alzheimer's?
Many well-known drugs are originally based on plant substances. Physicians have now determined that a powerful neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory drug from bushes in California could help treat Alzheimer's disease.
In their current investigation, the scientists at the Salk Institute found that an active ingredient that naturally occurs in bushes in California could in future be used to treat Alzheimer's. The experts published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Redox Biology".
How can we prevent the effects of aging on the brain?
Alzheimer's leads to many deaths worldwide. Since age is a major risk factor in Alzheimer's, the researchers looked for ways to counteract the effects of aging on the brain. The identification of sterubin as a potent neuroprotective component of a plant called Yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum) from California is a promising step in this direction, the authors of the study explain.
Native tribes used the plant as medicine
Native California tribes, who called the plant a sacred herb in Spanish, have long used Yerba Santa because of its medicinal properties. The leaves were used to treat respiratory problems, fever and headaches. Pounded leaves were used in envelopes for wounds, sore muscles and rheumatism.
How was the investigation carried out?
To identify natural substances that could reverse the symptoms of a neurological disorder, the scientists used a screening method to search for active substances with the help of a commercial library of 400 plant extracts with known pharmacological properties. The experts had previously used this approach to identify other active substances (called flavonoids) from plants that have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. The doctors discovered a molecule called sterubin as the most active component of Yerba Santa. Sterubin and other plant extracts were examined for their impact on the energy consumption in mouse nerve cells as well as on other age-related neurotoxicity and survival pathways, which are directly related to the reduced energy metabolism, the accumulation of misfolded, aggregated proteins and inflammation occurring in Alzheimer's.
Effect of sterubin
Sterubin had a strong anti-inflammatory effect on the brain cells called microglia. The drug also effectively removed iron. This could potentially be beneficial as iron can contribute to nerve cell damage in aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Overall, the connection was effective against several inducers of cell death in the nerve cells, the scientists explain. "This is a compound that was known but was ignored," said study author Pamela Maher of Salk’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory in a press release. Sterubin is much more active than the other flavonoids in Yerba Santa and worked even better.
More research is needed
The experts next plan to test sterubin in an animal model of Alzheimer's disease and then determine the drug-like properties and toxicity values in the animals. With this data, it may be possible to test the connection in humans, although it is crucial to use sterubin derived from plants grown under standardized, controlled conditions. (as)