Although the exact mechanism of AD progression has not been confirmed, one key process suspected to involved is the misfolding of beta-amyloid protein fragments, inducing the formation of clumps or plaques, which in turn promotes inflammation and oxidation. Misfolding is thought to occur when beta-amyloid binds itself to metals. Copper is just one of the metals thought to be implicated in the oxidative process; although iron, zinc and others may also have a role, suggested the researchers
Using visible spectrophotometry, the researchers from the University of South Florida measured the degree of oxidation using a chemical marker 3,5 di-tert-butylcatechol (DTBC).
Little or no oxidation of DTBC occurred solely with beta-amyloid, the scientists found. However, when bound to copper, beta-amyloid caused significant DTBC oxidation. Subsequently, oxidation levels fell by around 90% when betanin was added to the copper-bound beta-amyloid mixture. Lower oxidation rates, may mean a reduced amount of misfolding, the researchers suggested.
"We can't say that betanin stops the misfolding completely, but we can say that it reduces oxidation," said researcher Darrell Cole Cerrato, who presented findings at the recent meeting of the American Chemical Society.
"Less oxidation could prevent misfolding to a certain degree, perhaps even to the point that it slows the aggregation of beta-amyloid peptides, which is believed to be the ultimate cause of Alzheimer's."
"Our data suggest that betanin, a compound in beet extract, shows some promise as an inhibitor of certain chemical reactions in the brain that are involved in the progression of Alzheimer's disease," added Professor Li-June Ming. "This is just a first step, but we hope that our findings will encourage other scientists to look for structures similar to betanin."
Although the researchers suggested that the findings could pave the way for future drugs to slow the progress of AD, betanin was chosen to see whether a positive effect could be obtained with a readily accessible ingredient.
“Rather than taking more of a pharmaceutical sort of approach, we wanted to make this work with something that anybody and everybody could get into without necessarily needing a prescription,” explained Cerrato.
Cerrato presented findings of the research at a meeting of the American Chemical Society on 20th March in New Orleans.
Abstract: “’Beeting’ Alzheimer's: Inhibition of Cu2+-β-amyloid mediated oxidation and peroxidation by betanin from sugar beets”