Resveratrol appears to reduce brain inflammation in Alzheimer's patients by repairing the integrity of the blood-brain barrier
Famously found in red wine (although at very small levels), resveratrol is already well known within the longevity community, and has been studied as a health promoting compound that switches on the Sirtuin genes - genes associated with repair switched on during calorie restriction. While data has been fairly mixed regarding its health effect in humans, partly due to resveratrol's poor bioavailability, it turns out it could play an effective role in a combination treatment for Alzheimer's disease.
A partial success
Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center have already tested high-dose, pure resveratrol on 119 patients, within a phase 2 Alzheimer's trial. Now, they built on this by providing 19 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's with either a placebo or resveratrol daily, for a year. The amount of used would be the equivalent of drinking 1000 bottles of red wine.
The new study discovered that patients who had been taking resveratrol displayed a 50% reduction in matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) in their cerebrospinal fluid. Why does this matter? MMP-9 at higher levels actually breaks down the crucial blood-brain barrier, which acts as a protective sieve. Resveratrol activates the SIRT-1 gene, which in turn appears to lower MMP-9 expression.
"These new findings are exciting because they increase our understanding of how resveratrol may be clinically beneficial to individuals with Alzheimer's disease. In particular, they point to the important role of inflammation in the disease, and the potent anti-inflammatory effects of resveratrol"
By repairing the brain barrier, resveratrol impaired entry of inflammatory immune signals while also reducing swelling in the brain - again caused by lowering inflammation. Curiously, it also appeared to induce expression of beneficial, adaptive immune activity, which suggests it may help with clearing toxic proteins from the brain.
While the compound certainly won't 'cure' Alzheimer's, it may reduce certain symptoms and form part of a comprehensive drug package that targets tau and beta amyloid alongside other anti-inflammatory strategies.
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