LOS ANGELES, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. researchers
have discovered the reason why people who drink red wine largely avoid heart
disease, and may have come up with a naturally-occurring substance that can
partly reverse the effects of Alzheimer's disease, a new study showed.
The researchers at the University of California in
Los Angeles (UCLA) said the discovery will now be tested in human subjects, and
could be the first disease-modifying treatment of Alzheimer's.
The findings, published in the November issue of the
Journal of Biological Chemistry, may explain why the typical diet in France,
which is rich in bad cholesterol and saturated fats and copious amounts of red
wine, does not lead to correspondingly high levels of heart disease or
"We believe this is an important next step," lead
researcher David Teplow, a neurology professor, said in a statement released by
Teplow and his team have measured how chemicals
called polyphenols found in red wine block the formation of proteins that build
up toxic plaque in the blood stream. This plaque has long been understood to
clog arteries, and lead to Alzheimer's disease.
Teplow and his colleagues examined 8,000 different
types of polyphenols found in nature. Food such as cocoa, nuts, tea and berries
contain polyphenols, and their link to plaque prevention has been
The new research, conducted at the UCLA and the Mt.
Sinai School of Medicine in New York, is the first to explain the mechanics of
how the various polyphenols work to combat plaque.
Using lab mice, the researchers monitored how two
types of proteins found in human blood can cause heart disease or Alzheimer's.
These proteins fold up and stick to each other in the blood, killing nerve
endings and leading to heart disease or Alzheimer's.
Scientists used polyphenols distilled from grape
seeds on the mice, and observed not only how the natural chemicals blocked the
formation of the harmful proteins, but also reduced their toxicity, Teplow said.
Teplow called the polyphenol's beneficial function
"pretty straightforward" in blocking the proteins from converting into
plaque-causing "toxic aggregates."
"If the proteins can't assemble, toxic aggregates
can't form, and thus there is no toxicity," Teplow said.
This "suggests that administration of the compound in
Alzheimer's patients might block the development of these toxic aggregates,
prevent disease development and also ameliorate existing disease," he said.