Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Cocktail Therapy for Alzheimer's?

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Cocktail Therapy for Alzheimer's?

Article excerpt

A dietary cocktail that includes a type of omega-3 fatty acid can improve memory and learning in gerbils, according to the latest study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers that points to a possible beverage-based treatment for Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.

The combination of supplements, which contains three compounds normally found in the bloodstream, is now being tested in Alzheimer's patients. The cocktail has previously been shown to promote growth of new brain connections in rodents.

"It may be possible to use this treatment to partially restore brain function in people with diseases that decrease the number of brain neurons, including, for example, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, strokes, and brain injuries," says Richard Wurtman, the Cecil H. Green distinguished professor of neuropharmacology and senior author of the paper. "Of course, such speculations have to be tested in doubleblind, placebo-controlled clinical trials." These types of trials are now underway in Europe.

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The researchers found that normal gerbils treated with the mixture--a combination of DHA (a type of omega-3 fatty acid, see image above), uridine, and choline--performed significantly better on learning and memory tests than untreated gerbils.

Wurtman developed the treatment as a new approach to tackling Alzheimer's--restoring the synapses, or connections between brain cells, that lead to cognitive decline in Alzheimer's patients. Synapses, where information is passed between neurons, play a critical role in learning and memory. Wurtman's laboratory has previously shown that the cocktail treatment improves those functions in rats with cognitive impairments. …

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