Plant compound promises new tool in the fight against Alzheimer’s

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MSU professor of horticulture Muraleedharan Nair's novel compound blocks the rogue protein that causes Alzheimer's. (view larger image)

Michigan State University (MSU) researcher Muraleedharan Nair has patented and is moving toward clinical trials with a new natural treatment for Alzheimer’s disease based on the plant compound withanimedes. This represents a major step forward, as there is nothing on the market that slows the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Derived from Ashwaghanda, an herbal remedy used in Eastern medicine for centuries, withanimedes is a powerful antioxidant that has shown the ability to protect cells against damaging attacks from the rogue protein that causes the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s begins when a specific protein starts breaking, or cleaving, at the wrong place to produce an unwanted fragment. This bad fragment, called BAP, stresses cells’ membranes, sparks plaque formation and eventually kills the cells. This attack begins in the frontal lobe, erasing memories and continuing its unrelenting assault deeper into the brain.

“Rather than trying to stop only the malevolent cleaving, our compound keeps the bad protein from entering the cell where it does its damage,” said Nair, professor in the MSU Department of Horticulture and senior associate to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources dean. “Our studies have shown that withanamides effectively protect the brain cells by neutralizing the effect of BAP.”

For the full story, please visit MSU Today.

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