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A diet that can help prevent and reverse brain damage linked to Parkinson’s disease

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An accumulation of PARIS in the brains of persons with Parkinson’s disease hinders the production of the protective protein PGC-1alpha. The protein shields brain cells from the harmful effects of reactive oxygen molecules that build up in the brain.

Dopamine neurons die without PGC-1alpha, resulting in the cognitive and physical abnormalities associated with Parkinson’s disease.

According to a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine, they have evidence that a compound known as ‘farnesol’, naturally found in herbs, fruits and berries, can help prevent and reverse brain damage associated with Parkinson’s disease.

The study’s findings, published in Science Translational Medicine, describe how the researchers uncovered farnesol’s potential by screening a wide library of medicines for those that inhibited PARIS.

To find its potential, the researchers gave mice either a farnesol-supplemented diet or a regular mouse diet for one week. Then, the researchers administered pre-formed fibrils of the protein alpha-synuclein, which is associated with the effects of Parkinson’s disease in the brain.

The mice on the farnesol diet performed better on a strength and coordination test meant to detect the progression of Parkinson’s disease symptoms, according to the researchers. On average, the mice outperformed other mice that had been injected with alpha-synuclein but were on a regular diet.

When the researchers examined brain tissue from the two groups of mice, they discovered that mice fed a farnesol-enriched diet had twice as many healthy dopamine neurons as mice not on the farnesol-rich diet.

In addition, farnesol-fed mice had around 55% more of the protective protein PGC-1alpha in their brains than untreated mice.

Farnesol binds to PARIS, modifying its structure so that it no longer interferes with PGC-1alpha synthesis, according to chemical tests.

While farnesol is naturally produced, synthetic equivalents are utilised in commerce, and the levels consumed by humans are unknown.

The researchers warn that safe farnesol levels for humans have yet to be determined, and that only tightly controlled clinical trials can do so.

Though further study is needed, Dawson and his colleagues believe that farnesol will one day be utilised to develop therapies that will prevent or reverse brain damage caused by Parkinson’s disease.

Image Credit: Getty

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