Researchers have known about EGCG for decades. It is a plant compound called catechin found in green tea that may prevent disease and protect cells from damage.
According to a recent article in SciTechDaily, EGCG is currently in the spotlight for its ability to uncover other molecules that can dismantle the tau protein tangles found in the brain. It is also known that these tangles lead to Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.
About Tau Fibers
Tau fibers are lengthy filaments that develop tangles and attack neurons. Researchers have found that the molecule EGCG dismantles tau fibers. The journal Nature Communications carries the recently published paper on the study, noting that EGCG does not easily penetrate the brain. It suggests that there may be other compounds that may be better suited for this purpose.
Tau Molecules Called Tangles
J-shaped tau molecules join together to form amyloid fibrils called tangles. These tangles were initially identified over one hundred years ago by Alois Alzheimer when he examined the brain (post-mortem) of a patient who had dementia.
The fibers spread all through the brain causing brain atrophy. Researchers point to the removal of the tau fibers as the answer to slowing dementia.
The new research was headed by UCLA professor David Eisenberg and his associates. Professor Eisenberg commented that the pharma industry has failed due to the use of large antibodies as they are unable to enter the brain.
Professor Eisenberg points out that scientists have been aware of the EGCG molecule’s role in breaking amyloid fibers. He explains that his work differs widely from the current methods being used.
Eisenberg went on the explain that although there have been extensive studies of EGCG, utilizing it to treat Alzheimer’s remained unsuccessful due to its difficulty entering the brain or cells. Once it is in the bloodstream it binds to a variety of proteins as well as tau fibers and which weakens its efficacy.
About the Process
Researchers incubated tau tangles with EGCG. The specimens were taken from the deceased whose death was caused by Alzheimer’s. They found that half the fibers had been completely destroyed in three hours. The remaining fibers were partially destroyed but after twenty-four hours all fibers had vanished.
Some of the remaining fibrils were flash-frozen. The images of these samples showed how EGCG was able to break down the fibrils into pieces.
A doctoral student at UCLA found pharmacophores (specific locations) on tau fiber attached to EGCG molecules. After running 60,000 molecules in the nervous system and in the brain, he located several hundred that could potentially bind well to the tau fiber. The researchers identified about six dozen that could break up the fibers.
Notably, CNS-17 and CNS-11 molecules halted the spread of fibers between cells. The researchers believe that both molecules can be used in drugs that treat Alzheimer’s.
It is evident that researchers have only recently recognized that small molecules can break up the fibers. They now consider Alzheimer’s and amyloid diseases to be on the same level as cancer, meaning structure will now be used to create drugs.