Degenerative brain diseases have puzzled scientists and researchers for years. Despite leaps and bounds being made in the understanding of these diseases, no cure has been identified.
However, researchers at Indiana University may be closer than ever to a cure for Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's and ALS, among others.
A study led by Hui-Chen Lu identified 24 different compounds that boost an enzyme in the brain known to ward off degenerative brain diseases. The protective enzyme was discovered last year and is known as NMNAT2.
And you can find one of these 24 compounds in your kitchen, specifically, in your morning coffee.
Out of 1,280 compounds that were screened, the research team identified caffeine as one of the substances shown to increase production of NMNAT2.
She described the enormity of her work to Indiana University:
“This work could help advance efforts to develop drugs that increase levels of this enzyme in the brain, creating a chemical 'blockade' against the debilitating effects of neurodegenerative disorders.”
Her team used mice that were genetically modified to produce lower levels of the NMNAT2 enzyme.
At the conclusion, they found that mice who were given caffeine produced the same enzyme levels as normal mice and had improved memory function.
In addition to identifying sources of improved memory function, the study also revealed 13 compounds that could be contributing to degenerative brain diseases. Lu said:
“Increasing our knowledge about the pathways in the brain that appear to naturally cause the decline of this necessary protein is equally as important as identifying compounds that could play a role in future treatment of these debilitating mental disorders.”
The important findings of the study were released right around the same time that news broke that caffeine had made a reappearance on the World Anti-Doping Agency's waiting list of prohibited substances.