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Ancient Chinese medicinal herb can protect the brain from Alzheimer's Disease, study finds

[Nov. 28, 2023: JD Shavit, The Brighter Side of News]

Chinese scientists have highlighted the potential of the goji berry. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

In a groundbreaking discovery, Chinese scientists have highlighted the potential of the goji berry, traditionally cherished for its health benefits in Chinese culture, in the fight against Alzheimer's disease.

Often donned with the name 'wolfberry', the goji berry's vibrant orange-red hue and sweet-tart flavor are not its only attractions. The fruit, originating from a shrub native to China, is revered both in culinary traditions and ancient medicinal practices. Its reputation has grown beyond China, largely due to its antioxidant-rich nature and its myriad health benefits.


A Deep Dive into the Science

The study, led by a team at the Institute of Biophysics under the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences, delved into the mechanisms by which goji berry extract could play a role in neuroprotection. To achieve this, researchers turned to a trusted model in biological studies: C. elegans, a worm celebrated for its simple and fully-mapped genome.


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The revelations of the study are nothing short of fascinating. The scientists uncovered that goji berry extract has the potential to break down the notorious amyloid-beta protein. To laymen, this protein is a significant culprit in Alzheimer's disease, forming problematic clumps, or 'plaques', in the brain.

In addition to this, the extract halted the production of reactive oxygen species, subsequently reducing the formation of the amyloid-beta protein.


The Novel Mechanism: mtUPR

The researchers unveiled that the extract stimulates a process known as mtUPR (mitochondrial unfolded protein response). This mechanism is instrumental in breaking down the notorious amyloid-beta protein deposits. Notably, mtUPR plays a pivotal role in sustaining mitochondrial function, the powerhouse of cells, and overall cellular health.

When mitochondrial stressors are present, the proteolytic complex CLPP-1 is activated, causing the degradation of proteins to smaller peptides. (CREDIT: MDPI)

By activating mtUPR, goji berry extract opens up an innovative approach in the potential treatment of Alzheimer's. Aging, unfortunately, brings about a decline in mitochondrial function, making cells prone to malfunctioning. Activating this process can rejuvenate cell survival and restore the optimal function of mitochondrial networks.


The potential of manipulating mtUPR for therapeutic purposes isn't restricted to Alzheimer's. It's believed to have the potential to combat various ailments associated with mitochondrial dysfunction.

Goji berries in the wild. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

In essence, the study not only elevates the goji berry's status as a protective agent against Alzheimer's but also provides an insight into the novel pathways by which this time-honored herb operates.


The Path Forward

While these findings are a beacon of hope, it's essential to understand that the journey to harnessing the full protective powers of the goji berry is still in its infancy. Future research is crucial to dissect the nuances of its effects. Only after thorough studies with varied experimental models can the scientific community confidently move towards human-centric clinical trials.

Goji berry-based functional food products. (CREDIT: MDPI)

Yet, the study stands as a testament to the fact that nature, in its vast expanse, holds remedies that can combat even the most devastating of diseases. This research has undoubtedly placed the humble goji berry at the forefront of Alzheimer's research.


While the scientific community awaits further revelations, for those intrigued by the study, integrating goji berries into their daily diet might be a delectable and potentially beneficial endeavor. As the ancient saying goes, "Let food be thy medicine," and perhaps, in the goji berry, we find both a tasty treat and a beacon of hope for brain health.

For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided by Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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