Food supplements fight degenerative brain disorders
A natural food supplement widely available in pharmacies and health stores – called phosphatidylserine – is made from beef, oysters and soy. Proven to improve cognition and slow memory loss, it’s taken by many older people suffering from memory impairment. Now a team headed by Prof. Gil Ast and Dr. Ron Bochner of Tel Aviv University’s department of human molecular genetics has discovered that the same supplement improves the functioning of genes involved in degenerative brain disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and Familial Dysautonomia (FD).
In FD, a rare genetic disorder that impacts the nervous system and appears almost exclusively in the Ashkenazi Jewish population, a genetic mutation prevents the brain from manufacturing healthy IKAP proteins – which likely have a hand in cell migration and aiding connections between nerves — leading to the early degeneration of neurons. When the supplement was applied to cells taken from FD patients, the gene function improved, and an elevation in the level of IKAP protein was observed, said Ast. These results were replicated in a second experiment that involved administering the supplement orally to mouse populations with FD.
The findings, which were recently published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics, are very encouraging, he added. “That we see such an effect on the brain – the most important organ in relation to this disease – shows that the supplement can pass through the blood-brain barrier even when administered orally and accumulate in sufficient amounts in the brain.”