Can blueberry extract prevent Parkinson’s?

April 14, 2014 at 6:36 am Leave a comment

Can blueberry extract prevent or reduce the effects of Parkinson’s? That’s what researchers at Memorial University are trying to figure out.

A new paper by David Lipsett and Dr. Brian Staveley of the Department of Biology suggests that a diet supplemented with blueberry extract may indeed have a positive impact on a fruit fly model of Parkinson Disease.

“Parkinson disease is the second most common progressive neurodegenerative disorder and is only surpassed in frequency by Alzheimer disease,” he said. “Initially believed to be an entirely random disease, studies have identified alpha-synuclein as the first gene related to Parkinson’s.”

Alpha-synuclein is a protein abundant in the human brain, found mainly at the tips of nerve cells, or neurons, in specialized structures called presynaptic terminals. These terminals release chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, which relay signals between neurons and is critical for normal brain function.

Although the function of this gene is not well understood, studies suggest that it plays an important role in regulating the release of dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter critical for controlling the start and stop of voluntary and involuntary movements.

“This gene is proven to be the cause of inherited Parkinson disease in human families that have more of the gene, or an unusual form of it,” said Dr. Staveley. “We’ve taken that gene and put it in fruit flies and found that causes a few defects including decreased lifespan and retinal degeneration.”

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Entry filed under: Biotechnology News and Info from Canadian Universities.

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