According to new research from the University of Leeds Natural, chemicals found in green tea and red wine may disrupt a key step of the Alzheimer's disease pathway.
In early-stage laboratory experiments, the researchers identified the process that allows harmful clumps of protein to latch on to brain cells, causing them to die. They were able to interrupt this pathway using the purified extracts of EGCG from green tea and resveratrol from red wine.
The findings offer potential new targets for developing drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is characterised by a distinct build-up of amyloid protein in the brain, which clumps together to form toxic, sticky balls of varying shapes. These amyloid balls latch on to the surface of nerve cells in the brain by attaching to proteins on the cell surface called prions, causing the nerve cells to malfunction and eventually die.
"We wanted to investigate whether the precise shape of the amyloid balls is essential for them to attach to the prion receptors, like the way a baseball fits snugly into its glove," said co-author Dr Jo Rushworth.
"And if so, we wanted to see if we could prevent the amyloid balls binding to prion by altering their shape, as this would stop the cells from dying," he added.
The team formed amyloid balls in a test tube and added them to human and animal brain cells.
Lead researcher Professor Nigel Hooper of the University's Faculty of Biological Sciences said: "When we added the extracts from red wine and green tea, which recent research has shown to re-shape amyloid proteins, the amyloid balls no longer harmed the nerve cells. We saw that this was because their shape was distorted, so they could no longer bind to prion and disrupt cell function.
"We also showed, for the first time, that when amyloid balls stick to prion, it triggers the production of even more amyloid, in a deadly vicious cycle," he added.
Professor Hooper says that the team's next steps are to understand exactly how the amyloid-prion interaction kills off neurons.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. (ANI)