African plant extract could pave way for new drug to treat Alzheimer's disease

A plant extract used for centuries in traditional medicine in Nigeria could form the basis of a new drug to treat Alzheimer's disease, researchers at The University of Nottingham have found.

Their study, published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology, has shown that the extract taken from the leaves, stem and roots of Carpolobia lutea, could help to protect chemical messengers in the brain which play a vital role in functions including memory and learning.

The tree extract could pave the way for new drugs to tackle patient symptoms but without the unwanted side-effects associated with some current treatments.

The study was led by Dr Wayne Carter in the University's Division of Medical Sciences and Graduate Entry Medicine, based at Royal Derby Hospital. He said: "As a population we are living longer, and the number of people with dementia is growing at an alarming rate. Our findings suggest that traditional medicines will provide new chemicals able to temper Alzheimer's disease progression."

Neurodegenerative diseases represent a huge health burden globally, placing pressure on health services and having a negative impact on the lives of patients and their families.

Researchers and drug companies are racing to discover new treatments for these disorders and have begun looking to plant extracts as a potential source of novel drugs.

In patients with Alzheimer's disease and other diseases such as Parkinson's disease and myasthenia gravis, the activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, is reduced, leading to problems with memory and attention.

Current drugs - called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors - reduce the normal breakdown of acetylcholine. Extensive research is underway to find new versions of these drugs but with additional beneficial properties.

Carpolobia lutea, known more commonly as cattle stick, is a small shrub or tree found native to Central and West Africa. Herbalists in Nigerian tribes use the essence of the root as an aphrodisiac and the treatment of genitourinary infections, gingivitis, and waist pains.

It has also been reported to possess other anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, antimicrobial, antimalarial, and analgesic properties. This could be particularly important in Alzheimer's disease as there is more evidence emerging that Alzheimer's patients have inflammation in the brain.

The Nottingham study found that the plant was highly effective in preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine but had other beneficial antioxidant properties in fighting free radicals - unstable atoms that can cause damage to cells and contribute to ageing and disease - damage that may be exacerbated in Alzheimer's disease.

Comments

  1. Storm Crow Storm Crow United States says:

    Did you know that cannabis can do this? “THC blocks an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, which speeds the formation of amyloid plaque in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. The Alzheimer's drugs Aricept and Cognex work by blocking acetylcholinesterase. When tested at double the concentration of THC, Aricept blocked plaque formation only 22% as well as THC, and Cognex blocked plaque formation only 7% as well as THC.” From “Marijuana May Slow Alzheimer's” at WebMD.

    But THC doesn't stop with "just" preventing the deposit of amyloid plaque in the brain! THC activates both the "get high" CB1 receptors, but also the healing CB2 receptors. (If you have no idea what I am talking about please read "Introduction to the Endocannnabinoid System" by NORML.)

    “The activation of cannabinoid CB2 receptors stimulates in situ and in vitro beta-amyloid removal by human macrophages”, “Activation of the CB(2) receptor system reverses amyloid-induced memory deficiency” - both at PubMed, or the shorter news article, “Cannabinoids remove plaque-forming Alzheimer's proteins from brain cells”  (Medical X Press).    

    (FYI- in situ means on the site, in this case in a brain; in vitro means in a test tube;  macrophages are your “clean up crew” cells.)

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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