New study reveals that coffee could combat two of the world's biggest incurable diseases
Medicine has come an astounding way in the last century, but there are still some battles that need to be fought, with various diseases and illnesses that we are yet to cure or find a suitable treatment for. However, there are occasionally some remarkable developments, such as a recent study that revealed both Parkinson's Disease and a certain type of dementia could be treated using coffee.
Dementia with lewy bodies (DLB) is a type of dementia that shares symptoms with both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, occurring when alpha-synuclein appears in nerve cells in the brain. Alpha-synuclein's function is unclear to scientists, but when it clumps up, it can lead to cell death - and the aforementioned diseases. Some treatments for these diseases focus on reducing the protein's growth, which has lead researchers to test the use of coffee.
Two compounds, caffeine and EHT (which is found in a coffee bean's waxy coating) were tested on newborn mice which were genetically at risk for both diseases, and worked together to prevent the accumulation of the toxic protein. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and carried out by Rutgers University, lead by neurologist Dr M Maral Mouradian.
Mice were given either 50 mg per kg of caffeine, 13 mg per kg of EHT, or a combination of the two, every day for six months. The research team then carried out assessments on the rodents' motor skills, as well as their learning and memory skills - all of which reflect activity in different areas of the brain.
Given alone, neither caffeine nor EHT had much effect, but the mice who took the combination of caffeine and EHT, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in the past, were shown to have a reduction in the build-up of alpha-synuclein.
The test mice then euthanised so that their brains could be properly examined. This process revealed that caffeine and EHT used together boosted the activity of the protein PP2A, which prevented the accumulation of alpha-synuclein in their brains. This compound also reduced brain inflammation - which is a common symptom of Parkinson's Disease.
Approximately one million North Americans are expected to be diagnosed with Parkinson's by 2020, while DLB affects around 1.3 million in the United States - according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association. The hope is that this new research into the affect of these coffee elements could be implemented to be the next step towards treating Parkinson's and DLB.
"EHT is a compound found in various types of coffee but the amount varies," Dr Mouradian, the lead author of the study, said. "It is important that the appropriate amount and ratio be determined so people don't over-caffeinate themselves, as that can have negative health consequences."
Hopefully this research has further applications in medicine, and those that are affected by this conditions can find the easiest and most effective treatment as soon as possible.