A vegetable compound found in beetroot could be the key to new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.
Betanin, which gives beetroot that distinct red color, suppresses chemical changes linked to the death of neurons. Scientists believe drugs can be derived from this compound base, thereby slowing the effects of Alzheimer’s.
“Our data suggest that betanin, a compound in beet extract, shows some promise as an inhibitor of certain chemical reactions in the brain that are involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” says lead scientist Professor Li-June Ming, from the University of South Florida, US.
“This is just a first step, but we hope that our findings will encourage other scientists to look for structures similar to betanin that could be used to synthesise drugs that could make life a bit easier for those who suffer from this disease.”
One of the hallmark traits of Alzheimer’s is sticky deposits of a protein building block, or peptide, called beta-amyloid, which accumulates in the brain. When the peptide becomes attached to metals such as iron or copper it misfolds and binds together in clumps, said Prof Ming. This leads to inflammation and oxidation, leading to the ‘rusting’ and death of nerve cells.
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In lab tests, when betanin was added to a copper-bound beta-amyloid mixture, the oxidation was reduced by 90%, suggesting the misfolding of the peptide was being suppressed.
Co-author Darrell Cerrato, also from the University of South Florida, said: “We can’t say that betanin stops the misfolding completely, but we can say that it reduces oxidation.
“Less oxidation could prevent misfolding to a certain degree, perhaps even to the point that it slows the aggregation of beta-amyloid peptides, which is believed to be the ultimate cause of Alzheimer’s.”
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