News ArchivesRead News
Decaf coffee, nicotine-free tobacco may offer Parkinson's protection
Thursday April 29, 2010
Journal of Neuroscience - In a new study, researchers found that coffee and cigarettes could protect the brain of flies with a form of Parkinson's disease, but the benefit was not because of caffeine and nicotine.
Leo Pallanck, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, whose team led the new study, said that if they could identify the compounds that put up this brain defence, they could offer a preventive Parkinson's treatment where none currently exists.
"We think that there's something else in coffee and tobacco that's really important," New Scientist quoted him as saying.
Epidemiological studies have suggested that coffee-drinkers and smokers are less likely to develop Parkinson's than abstainers.
"A lot of the field has gravitated to the idea that it's caffeine and nicotine [that protects their brains]," said Pallanck.
To see if ingredients other than caffeine and nicotine might be providing the benefit, Pallanck's team turned to fruit flies with a condition similar to Parkinson's disease.
The flies have mutations that kill off dopamine-producing neurons, which causes them to develop movement and cognitive problems like those characteristic of Parkinson's in people.
The same mutations are linked to hereditary forms of Parkinson's in humans.
The researchers prepared several fly foods spiced up with normal coffee, decaffeinated coffee, smokeless "dipping" tobacco designed to allow nicotine absorption via the mouth, or a commercial nicotine-free tobacco.
Then the researchers raised groups of flies on the various diets.
Normally, dopamine-producing neurons in the mutant flies die off as they age.
However, a diet featuring coffee and tobacco kept the neurons alive in all the flies tested at 20 days old, whether or not their food contained caffeine or nicotine.
In addition, when pure caffeine or nicotine were added to the meals of other groups of flies, their dopamine neurons died off - just like those of flies whose food had no additive at all.
"We didn't see any protective effects at all of caffeine and nicotine," said Pallanck.
His team went on to identify a compound found in both decaf and normal coffee called cafestol that seems partially responsible for its neuro-protective effects.
Cafestol activates a protein produced by flies called Nrf2, and the team found that blocking Nrf2 diminished coffee's protective effect on dopamine neurons.
Blocking Nrf2 in flies fed tobacco also reduced its protective effects.
And now, the scientists are searching for tobacco ingredients that activate Nrf2 - and other ones that do the same in coffee.
These compounds might one day be given to people to protect against Parkinson's.
Alternatively, new drugs could mimic the protective neural processes triggered by coffee and cigarettes.
Recent NewsOct 18 - Fighting Parkinson's disease through dance
Oct 18 - Brain disconnections may contribute to Parkinson's hallucinations
Oct 17 - Scientists Identify Structure of PINK1, Key Parkinson’s-protective Protein
Oct 17 - Diabetes drug cuts Parkinson's risk by 28 percent, study finds
Oct 10 - Advances in Brain Pacemaker Reduces Tremors, Helps Parkinson's Sufferers Live a More Normal Life
Oct 10 - Medical History Could Help Predict Parkinson's Disease Risk Long Before Diagnosis
Oct 3 - Changes in Olfactory Bulb Explain Loss of Smell in Early Stages of Parkinson’s Disease, Study Finds
Oct 3 - Sleep Disturbances May Worsen Motor Symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease, Study Suggests
Sep 12 - Australian Researchers Develop New Diagnostic Tool to Spot Early Signs of Parkinson’s
Sep 11 - GeneFo Webinar to Focus on Using Humor to Manage Parkinson’s Disease
Sep 6 - Parkinson’s and the ‘D’ word
Sep 6 - Compounds in Asthma Drugs Might Be Used as Parkinson’s Treatment
Sep 5 - AstraZeneca Joins Takeda, Berg to Advance Development of Parkinson’s Disease Therapies
Sep 1 - Stem Cell Transplant Trial in Parkinson’s Patients Planned After Test in Japan Succeeds in Monkeys
Sep 1 - Titan to Start Phase 1/2 Study of Subdermal Implant to Deliver Requip to Parkinson’s Patients
Aug 30 - FDA Refuses Acorda’s Inbrija New Drug Application Due to Manufacturing Questions
Aug 23 - Support Groups: Are They for You?
Aug 22 - Internet Visits with Parkinson’s Specialist Can Be as Effective as In-person Visits, Trial Finds
Aug 21 - Cavion’s New CMO to Lead Cav3 Platform Development for Neurological Diseases
Aug 15 - Singing Helps Early-stage Parkinson’s Patients Retain Speech, Respiratory Control, Studies Show