SINGAPORE: Researchers at NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine have identified an activation process between a component in green tea and a protein in the human body that can provide cellular protection against Parkinson’s disease.
Called EGCG, the green tea component is also found in red wine, and it triggers AMP kinase, a protein in the body, to help prevent brain cells from dying under stress.
The researchers experimented on engineered fruit flies which had developed Parkinson’s, a progressive and degenerative neurological disease.
The team found that EGCG—treated flies exhibit much better movement ability and show significant preservation of their brain neurons, compared to untreated flies.
In three to five years’ time, the researchers will move from experimenting on fruit flies to experimenting on mice as well as brain cells from patients with Parkinson’s disease.
The team hopes to partner with pharmaceutical companies to formulate a drug which can be administered to Parkinson’s disease patients.
Associate Professor Lim Kah Leong from the school’s Department of Physiology says current treatment for Parkinson’s is usually in the form of a drug known as L—DOPA, which only offers symptomatic therapy.
The potential medication would offer neuro—protection.
Associate Professor Lim said: "Whilst they can actually improve the symptom, current medication cannot stop, cannot reverse the degeneration process. Hence it’s important to come up with something that can offer real protection to the brain cells from dying.
"There are benefits of drinking green tea but in this case we have something even more potent than drinking green tea. So hopefully medication centred around AMPK activation can provide real and faster benefit to Parkinson’s patients than green tea could at that stage."
Associate Professor Lim added that if a drug were to be developed, it would target patients with early—stage Parkinson’s disease to protect their brain cells from further damage.
The study is supported by the Singapore Millennium Foundation, National Medical Research Council and A*STAR Biomedical Research Council. About S$200,000 was put into the project.
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