Lichen’s Natural Dye, Believed To Fight Alzheimer’s Disease
A red natural dye obtained from lichens that grow on the Canary Islands, is believed to be a possible substance to combat Alzheimer’s disease. This century-old dye which has been used to color food and fabrics can reduce the number of small toxic protein aggregates when this orcein compound and O4, a relative substance, bind with small amyloid aggregates which are considered toxic and can cause neuronal dysfunction and memory impairment.
Scientists believe that O4 when combined with small aggregates can be converted into large, mature plaques which are assumed to be non-toxic for neuronal cells. However this approach by Dr. Jan Bieschke (Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch), Dr. Martin Herbst (Charité — Universitätsmedizin Berlin) and Professor Erich Wanker (MDC, Berlin, Germany) will still need further studies with animal models to determine if can be used for therapy development.
This new mechanism was inspired when Professor Wanker and and his colleagues discovered that Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which is a chemical compound present in green tea, can make toxic protein assemblies non-toxic. The team of researchers then conducted tests using orcein and O4 to remove small toxic protein aggregates. But instead of remodeling the protein plaques, the researchers found out that binding orcein and O4 with toxic aggregates can reduce the abundance of small, toxic precursor protein assemblies, forming large plaques.
Professor Wanker explained that although they have discovered this new mechanism, it is still untested if effective against small amounts of misfolded proteins. “If our hypothesis is correct that the small aggregates, which are precursors of plaques, indeed cause neuronal death, with O4 we would have a new mechanism to attack the disease,” Wanker added. The researchers also aim to address the question whether the accelerated formation of large plaques can be used for therapeutic approach, hoping that the results they will yield from the experiments will stimulate activities in this direction, and possibly in drug discovery.
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