~ Brain Cocktail Proposed by MIT Team

In a report published in the May 9, 2006 issue of the journal Brain Research, a team led by Richard Wurtman, who is the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Professor of Neuropharmacology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, revealed that a cocktail of dietary supplements could delay some of the decline in cognitive function that occurs in Alzheimer's disease. The findings will be presented at the International Academy of Nutrition and Aging 2006 Symposium on Nutrition and Alzheimer's Disease/Cognitive Decline in Chicago on May 2.

Wurtman's team added the B vitamin choline, uridine (a compound found in RNA and human breast milk), and omega-3 fatty acids to the diets of gerbils. The compounds are necessary for the production by brain neurons of phospholipids which help make up the cell membrane.   While the administration of either omega-3 fatty acids or uridine plus choline were effective, researchers found the greatest increase in the amount of membranes that form brain cell synapses (which connect neurons) in mice who received all three compounds. Damage to these connections is currently believed to result in dementia. It had previously been theorized that the amyloid plaques and tangles found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients were responsible for the decline in cognitive function observed in the disease, but scientists are now questioning whether they are the main cause of dementia.  

The "cocktail" is currently being tested in ongoing human trials.  If effective, it won’t be a cure for Alzheimer's disease, but could be useful as a long term treatment. The hypothesis that the compounds increase the formation of synaptic membranes is supported by studies conducted at MIT and Cambridge which have shown that uridine or omega-3 fatty acids promote the growth of neurites, which are outgrowths of the neurons' cell membranes.

"It's been enormously frustrating to have so little to offer people that have (Alzheimer's) disease," Dr Wurtman commented.  "If it works as well on the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease as it does in laboratory animals, I think there will be a lot of interest."

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