Washington: An artificial sweetener produced by fungi, bacteria, and algae could help treat those suffering from Parkinson`s disease, according to a new study.
Mannitol that is present in sugar-free gum and candy has been approved by the FDA as a diuretic to flush out excess fluids and used during surgery as a substance that opens the blood/brain barrier to ease the passage of other drugs.
Profs. Ehud Gazit and Daniel Segal of Tel Aviv University`s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology and the Sagol School of Neuroscience, along with their colleague Dr. Ronit Shaltiel-Karyo and PhD candidate Moran Frenkel-Pinter, found that mannitol also prevents clumps of the protein a-synuclein from forming in the brain - a process that is characteristic of Parkinson`s disease.
These results of the study have suggested that this artificial sweetener could be a novel therapy for the treatment of Parkinson`s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
After identifying the structural characteristics that facilitate the development of clumps of a-synuclein, researchers searched for a compound that could inhibit the proteins` ability to bind together.
In the lab, they found that mannitol was among the most effective agents in preventing aggregation of the protein in test tubes. The benefit of this substance is that it is already approved for use in a variety of clinical interventions, Segal said.
Next, to test the capabilities of mannitol in the living brain, the researchers turned to transgenic fruit flies engineered to carry the human gene for a-synuclein.
To study fly movement, they used a test called the "climbing assay," in which the ability of flies to climb the walls of a test tube indicates their locomotive capability. In the initial experimental period, 72 percent of normal flies were able to climb up the test tube, compared to only 38 percent of the genetically-altered flies.
The researchers then added mannitol to the food of the genetically-altered flies for a period of 27 days and repeated the experiment. This time, 70 percent of the mutated flies could climb up the test tube. In addition, the researchers observed a 70 percent reduction in aggregates of a-synuclein in mutated flies that had been fed mannitol, compared to those that had not.
These results have been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.