The National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the US is to award in excess of a million dollars to investigate how a member of the vitamin E family, alpha-tocotrienol, helps protect against inducible neuronal cell death.
The first NIH-funded study on alpha-tocotrienol, the palm-derived form of vitamin E, is based on preliminary data generated using Tocomin Full Spectrum Tocotrienol Complex. Previous research on Tocomin has determined that tocotrienols cross the blood-brain barrier and are potent protectors of neuron cells that may be killed due to stroke and other neurodegenerative diseases.
The research is led by Professor Chandan K. Sen, director of the Laboratory of Molecular Medicine at the Ohio State University Medical Center. Earlier studies by Sen found that minute amounts of palm-derived alpha-tocotrienol, from Tocomin, blocked glutamate-induced nerve cell death. Glutamate toxicity is a major contributor to pathological cell death within the nervous system.
The NIH-funded study will look at the mechanism by which alpha-tocotrienol exerts its neuroprotective action. It will lay the foundation for a safe and efficient approach to preventing cell death and securing normal neural function under challenging conditions.
Vitamin E is a generic term for both tocopherol and tocotrienol derivatives. There are significant differences in their chemical structures which make them act very differently in humans. Of the two, tocopherol is the most commonly used. Yet the antioxidant powers of tocotrienol have been proven to be much stronger than tocopherol.
"Eighty years after the discovery of vitamin E in 1922, it is long overdue to closely examine all naturally occurring forms of vitamin E side by side," said Sen, who noted that the general perception is that tocopherols are the only vitamin E molecules in nature.
"Attention to the naturally occurring tocotrienols, especially to their neuroprotective properties, could well provide us with a powerful tool to combat neurodegeneration by safe dietary means."