Fisetin, a naturally occurring flavonoid commonly found in strawberries and other fruits and vegetables, stimulates signaling pathways that enhance long-term memory, report researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in this week's Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Roughly one third of people age 60 and over suffer from memory and recall woes. As the average age of the U.S. population climbs, the number of people ravaged by Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia continues to rise.
"Since the development of a basic understanding of the biochemical pathways involved in memory formation, the holy grail of CNS research in the pharmaceutical industry is the identification of a safe, orally active drug that activates memory-associated pathways and enhances memory," says lead author Pamela Maher, Ph.D., a researcher in the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute.
Maher hit upon the beneficial effects of fisetin when she screened a collection of flavonoids, substances with anti-oxidant activities found in many plants, for their neuroprotective abilities in tissue culture models of neurodegenerative disease.
Maher found that some of those compounds, including fisetin, induced differentiation or maturation of neural cells. Maher explains, "That suggested to us that these compounds might be particularly beneficial, since they might not only protect neural cells from dying but might be able to promote new connections between nerve cells."
Interestingly the signaling pathway activated by fisetin in neural differentiation also played a role in memory formation, a process neuroscientists