Researchers in the United States have shown that a compound found in fruit - farnesol - has the potential to play a protective role to dopamine-producing brain cells.
Research results published in the journal of Science Translational Medicine uncover important insights to how a naturally occurring compound could pave the way for potential treatments to slow or stop Parkinson’s.
Protecting brain cells
In Parkinson’s, vital brain cells are lost over time but it isn’t completely clear what’s causing this. One clue is that damaging agents build up within cells over time to cause problems.
Previous research has shown that in the brain cells of people with Parkinson’s, there is a buildup of a protein called PARIS, which reduces the protection of cells from damaging agents.
What do the latest results show?
In this study, researchers tested a large number of drugs and natural compounds to see if any stopped the build up of this protein. Farnesol was selected and further investigated to see if stopping PARIS had a protective effect on brain cells.
Researchers used a mouse model of Parkinson’s to understand the impact of a diet enriched with farnesol. The results showed that the animals receiving the farnesol diet compared to the normal diet had less damage to their dopamine producing brain cells. The mice showed improvement in strength and coordination tasks, too.
Professor David Dexter, Associate Director of Research at Parkinson's UK said:
"Parkinson's is what happens when dopamine producing cells in the brain die, so this study is important as it highlights a new pathway that could target and protect these brain cells in a person with Parkinson's.
"145,000 people are currently living with Parkinson's in the UK and it is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world, so the need for a new treatment which could slow or stop Parkinson's in its tracks has never been more urgent. Designing more potent drugs which replicate the action of the natural compound - farnesol - would be the next steps for researchers to progress this into clinical trials and potentially hold the key for a groundbreaking new treatment."