Researchers based within the Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Group (PSRG) have been investigating how a natural compound, found in pomegranates, can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Led by Dr Olumayokun Olajide (a specialist in the anti-inflammatory properties of natural products), this two year project has also found that the painful inflammation that accompanies illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson’s disease could be reduced.
Preventing neuroinflammation helps to ease suffering for millions
Researchers have been using microglia (brain-resident immune cells) grown in PSRG laboratories to demonstrate that punicalagin, a component of pomegranate fruit, prevents neuroinflammation and the resulting breakdown of neurons. This key breakthrough may not be able to cure Alzheimer’s disease, but it can help to ease the resulting suffering which affects some 800,000 people in the UK, with 163,000 new cases a year being diagnosed. Globally, there are at least 44.4 million dementia sufferers, with the numbers expected to soar.
Previous research has shown that inflammation in microglia can trigger the production of neurotoxic chemicals and clumps of protein, known as “plaques” in the brain. These neurotoxic chemicals and plaques destroy the adjacent neurons, which are responsible for cognitive functions such as learning, memory and behaviour. This self-perpetuating process of neuroinflammation results in the progressive decline of these functions, presenting real challenges for people living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Developing new drugs for effective treatment
The PSRG team used brain cells isolated from rats in order to test the existing research, and are still working on the amounts of the pomegranate compound that are required in order to be effective. They will attempt to produce compound derivatives of punicalagin that could be the basis of new, orally administered drugs that would treat neuroinflammation.
“We do know that regular intake and regular consumption of pomegranate has a lot of health benefits, including the prevention of neuroinflammation related to dementia.”
For further details, contact the Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Group