Research Highlights

Potential therapy to halt the onset of Alzheimer’s disease

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.125 Published online 25 September 2018

Neuroscientists have linked depleted levels of glutathione (GSH), an antioxidant molecule in the brain, to Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a brain disorder involving progressive memory loss1. Monitoring the brain GSH levels offers a way to detect the early signs of AD and devise a therapy to keep this disease at bay.

GSH scavenges out reactive oxygen species such as free radicals, lipid peroxides and heavy metals that destroy various cells including brain cells.

Clues linking GSH and AD have come from autopsy studies that revealed that patients with AD had depleted brain GSH levels compared with patients with Parkinson’s and dementia.  

Using sophisticated imaging and analytical techniques, an international research team including researchers from the National Brain Research Centre in Haryana, India, discovered that GSH exists in two forms: extended and closed GSH. 

The scientists, led by Pravat Kumar Mandal and Deepika Shukla, found that the closed form of GSH depleted significantly in the hippocampus, a brain region responsible for memory, and the frontal cortex, a brain region involved in planning and decision-making.

Such GSH depletion, they argue, converts a normal person to a patient with mild cognitive impairment, a stage that slowly paves the onset of AD.

This study points to the prospect of a glutathione-based therapy for patients with mild cognitive impairment. “A follow-up study could then monitor the effects of such therapy on brain glutathione levels and cognitive profile of a patient,” says Mandal. Such treatment, he believes, could halt brain damage, delaying the onset of AD.


References

1. Shukla, D. et al. A multi-center human brain glutathione conformation study from magnetic resonance spectroscopy. J. Alzheimer’s. Disease. 1-16 (2018) doi: 10.3233/JAD-180648