Chemicals in green tea and red wine may block the brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists at the University of Leeds targeted a process that allows harmful clumps of protein in the brain to kill neurons.
Using purified extracts of the chemicals EGCG in green tea and resveratrol in red wine, they were able to stop nerve cells from being harmed.
Lead scientist Professor Nigel Hooper says it is an important step in increasing understanding of the cause and progression of Alzheimer’s.
“It’s a misconception that Alzheimer’s is a natural part of ageing; it’s a disease that we believe can ultimately be cured through finding new opportunities for drug targets like this,” he says.
Alzheimer’s is characterised by a build-up of amyloid-beta protein in the brain that clumps together to form toxic, sticky balls.
The amyloid balls latch on to molecules called prions on the surface of nerve cells. As a result, the nerve cells start 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,” says Dr Jo Rushworth, another member of the Leeds team.
“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.”
Previous research had shown that red wine and green tea compounds are able to reshape amyloid proteins, the Journal of Biological Chemistry report says.
When they were added to amyloid balls in a test tube, the toxic clumps of protein no longer harmed human and animal brain cells.